This is the fourth installment in a seven-part series that will explore in detail the background, significance and future of Centre College’s growing relationship with Myanmar.
Siera Hanks ’18, who is interested in southeast Asian development and education, has had the opportunity to make a difference personally in Myanmar not once, but twice.
Hanks discovered an internship with the Cetana Educational Foundation through Kyle Anderson, Centre College’s Director of the Center for Global Citizenship, who served as her concentration leader in the Governor’s Scholars Program in 2013.
“Centre connected me with professors like Dr. Anderson, who encouraged me to take opportunities like this and who introduced me to those opportunities in the first place,” said Hanks.
She received the Centre Education Fellowship, which helped fund her internship with Cetana.
Hanks said she chose this particular internship because she had experience teaching English as a second language and had worked with the foundation in high school, as well as her first year at Centre.
As a Cetana intern, Hanks started conversations with her students in English, judged English language presentations, taught a few lessons and even wrote curriculum for those few lessons with her co-intern, Eh Nay Thaw ’18.
“My favorite lesson I taught was to a group of seven-to nine-year-olds in Kyaing Tong. We taught them animal names, and we sang and danced,” said Hanks.
“We also got to do an English language presentation at the Myanmar Institute of Theology,” she continued. “I spoke about Global English and Eh Nay spoke about the education system in Myanmar.”
Hanks stays in touch with her students and has seen many of them continue to succeed.
“They are all getting these really amazing jobs and going to school and using their English skills. I am so excited and happy for them,” she said.
“It is rewarding to think that not only did I meet amazing people through my work with Cetana, but I also got to support their learning and professional growth in some small way.”
After this memorable experience, Hanks knew that she wanted to return to Myanmar.
She soon followed in the footsteps of several other Centre students by working for the United States Department of State in a foreign country.
She secured an internship with the U.S. Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar, which her Brown Fellows Scholarship helped fund.
“I remember I was given 24 hours to decide if I would take the internship—during finals, no less” said Hanks.
She credits her faculty advisor Associate Professor of International Studies Robert Bosco for helping her through the decision-making process and evaluating the offer.
“I was supported by many professors at Centre throughout the incredibly stressful application process,” she said.
Hanks chose to intern with the U.S. State Department because she was interested in “diplomatic work and experiencing firsthand what it was like to work as a part of a U.S. foreign mission.”
At the U.S. Embassy in Yangon, Hanks worked in the consular section, which is in charge of issuing both temporary and immigrant visas, as well as supporting American citizens abroad.
As a consular intern, she wrote visa revocation memos, conducted research on visa overstays, entered visa applicant data, made visa packets and scanned fingerprints of visa applicants.
Hanks also had the opportunity to write an official diplomatic cable and work with the embassy’s Gender and Women’s Working Group. To help local organizations, she assisted in organizing a workshop on writing grant applications for projects aiming to reduce gender-based violence.
“The work that really makes my heart sing has to do with making sure that as our world is developing, it is developing holistically. Happiness isn’t being forgotten for material development, health for power, or the good of the few at the expense of the many,” she concluded.
Hanks hopes to apply her studies and all she has learned through her experiences at Centre and abroad to create a more well-rounded development sector.
By Adeel Ahmed ’18
September 15, 2017.