“I feel extremely lucky that I was afforded this opportunity and am incredibly grateful to the John Speak Trust for making it possible”.
Since spending some time in Burma as a tourist a couple of years ago, I have been eager to charter a career linked with Burmese issues. After finishing my degree in International Relations, I decided that the ideal next step for me would be to start studying Burmese language to open up my opportunities for Burma work. I undertook a short and intensive Burmese language course to get a basic grasp of the language. Subsequently I applied for the John Speak Scholarship with a view to going abroad again to build on my Burmese language skills. Being awarded the scholarship allowed me to do this.
During my 6-month period of Burmese language study abroad, I was based on the Thai-Burma border in a town with a large Burmese population. I volunteered full-time with a local human rights organisation and worked on the publication of reports about human rights abuse in Eastern Burma. This not only placed me in a Burmese-speaking environment, but also immersed me in work that I am extremely passionate about and allowed me to daily build my knowledge of the situation in Burma. Outside of work hours I studied Burmese language, which was helped by having lessons with a local Burmese teacher. I worked on writing monthly reports for the John Speak Trust in Burmese, and spent a lot of time socialising and travelling with local friends.
These 6-months abroad have absolutely changed my life; I have come back to the UK more sure than ever that I want to work with Burma issues and with a greatly deepened understanding of the country. I made friends that I am sure I will always be in touch with, and am much more confident in speaking Burmese. Getting a firmer grip on the language was central to getting the most out of my work, to making solid friendships and to integrating into the local environment as fully as possible. I feel extremely lucky that I was afforded this opportunity and am incredibly grateful to the John Speak Trust for making it possible.