When you say you miss your home country, what is it that you miss? Family, friends, food and those unforgettable places where you played as a child? But I dare say that in the SI NGFL community as a whole a higher than average proportion of people miss something else about their home countries: the feeling of having a mission.
For many of us, experiencing, say, drought at home is what made us academically interested in sustainability. Or observing blatant human rights abuses convinced us that law matters so much that we wanted to pursue it at master’s level. That professional mission inspired by our native areas may have determined our first years of work and is what made us valuable candidates for an SI scholarship.
Photo: Camelia Vasilov, the vice-chair at the Lund Human Rights network
Here are four useful things you can do in your local networks to keep your dedication to your home mission alive:
Propose and organise events related to issues in your country
“Women’s rights in Iran – Untold Stories of Bravery” on December 5th was the first event in our network, Lund Human Rights. Proposed by a fellow scholar from Iran, this event included a movie screening based on the autobiography of an Iranian woman after the 1979 revolution, a comprehensive introduction to the ongoing campaigns for women's rights and a debate. We spent nearly four hours getting acquainted and debating political and religious oppression of women, in Iran in particular, and worldwide. That mission you care about, make it known here! If you wanted to discuss issues from your home country with an active audience in the Western world, SI NFGL is a wonderful platform to do so.
Take your activity on the board very seriously
If you had the drive and the charisma to get elected to a board position in your local network, do not sit idle. Andres Rios, the vice-chair of the Lund network in the previous academic year, wrote to me: “you need to be engaged in giving priority to the network in your agenda, it cannot be put to the side. Otherwise, it doesn't work well. Treat it as if it was another course you're taking, which demands time, action, group work, setting up and so on”.
Photo: Lund Human Rights local network
What does this have to do with your home mission? Most of us come from corrupt countries with careless or ineffective leaders. Being elected to the board of your local network is a chance to show that you can be different.
Network with like-minded people
During the SI NFGL kick-off event for new scholarship holders, which took place on 22nd of September in Stockholm, I had the chance to meet people from my native Moldova, and it was brilliant to talk about our country’s challenges! However, the fact is that my fellow countrymen are relatively few, and spread across Sweden.
Find or create opportunities to meet people who are interested in the same issues right there in your city. For instance, the “Kick-off fika” on October 29th was a social event co-organized by our two networks in Lund: Human Rights and Sustainability. In a more informal environment, you are likely to discover how much your home mission has in common with that of your fellow students.
Photo: Lund Human Rights local network at their kick-off fika
Use well the financial freedom afforded by your scholarship
Let us face it: as scholarship holders in arguably one of the best countries in the world, as students or researchers in Swedish universities, we are very well-positioned to explore outstanding career paths.
But which path to choose? If one of the criteria that defines an outstanding career for you is the ability to bring positive change to your country, then this time when you do not have financial woes is the best for doing projects from which that career can grow.
That can be related to your degree – as when Ruhiyya Isayeva, chair of Lund Human Rights and an experienced advocate, organised our second event: a workshop on the European Convention on Human Rights. It can be blogging, which can make you a powerful communicator. It can even be an additional ‘micro-degree’ focused on data analysis, as I am doing in my spare time – time which during my undergraduate years I would have spent working for a living. If you have reasons to believe pursuing such projects will enable you to fulfil your home mission, make room for them now.
Now, how do you keep your home mission alive? I would be incredibly grateful if you could reach out and share your own experience.