In her own words
"Whatever you're doing, if you're doing something that's going to benefit a country or place that you feel a connection towards, or a program that you feel a connection towards, is very important. That's going to make the experience more meaningful for you."
Global Brandeis Profiles
Liana Langdon-Embry '11: Social justice on wheels
by Marie Zazueta '11, Global Brandeis correspondent
FEB. 6 - Liana Langdon-Embry '11 spent most of her childhood abroad, living in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Bolivia and Indonesia. But in summer 2008, she returned to Latin America for an entirely different purpose -- to intern for a grassroots NGO. Located in the small town of Santa Elena, Venezuela, Fundacion Aldeas de Paz aims to improve and support disadvantaged communities in underserved regions of the world. Liana's day-to-day work entailed educating children who had not had the opportunity to get a substantial education.
A Community Advisor (CA) in her spare time, Liana is a Brandeis sophomore double majoring in International and Global Studies and Health: Science, Society and Policy with a minor in Spanish.
Liana was awarded the prestigious Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice Award, which allowed her to design her own summer internship. She discussed how this internship positively affected her view of social justice as a whole: "Coming [back] to Brandeis makes me appreciate the work we do towards social justice more…I never really completely got involved with that concept until I did this internship and I really understood what social justice meant. I hope to further that work here on campus, and I see the connection better."
Liana's internship did not take place at a typical "stationary" school. Instead, the school was on wheels -- literally. She explained that her "job as an intern there was mainly focused around the mobile school program, which is a school on wheels...every afternoon, we would take the school and literally roll it around the neighborhoods of Santa Elena. We provided education to street children and kids that didn't get the chance to go to school."
Along with this, Liana helped run a preschool in the mornings, so her days were filled with teaching underserved children of all ages. When asked about her experiences teaching these children, Liana explained that "positive adult attention" was just as important, if not more important, for the children's development as the actual academic component was.
"Most of these kids are abused or they don't have moms or dads or they don't have the opportunity for education," she said. "So many of them are neglected in the positive attention field, in positive adult attention. We were spending four hours a day with them, and that's a lot of good concentrated attention. That focus and mentorship can change a kid's life...Not necessarily in what they're learning, but just the resource, the opportunity to be around someone who believes in them."
She went on, "It really changed my perspective and the way I view the world. We often focus on big changes, but it's also necessary to make sure that developing countries are provided with essential people resources and institutions."
Liana's experience overseas had a positive, and crucial impact towards her career goals: "My internship completely supports my wanting to live overseas and live in other countries and I really think that I would like to start my own NGO someday," she said. "I'm not really sure what's in store for me in terms of a future career. As for now I'm trying to focus more on attaining skills and knowledge in the classroom, particularly in the public health field, so that later I could combine that with an international career. Looking at summer 2009, I'd like to have another internship overseas that'll give me an additional experience to reflect on and grow from."
Although Liana has already spent a great deal of time overseas, it was this past summer that sparked her vision of the goals she hopes to achieve after college. Her internship was not simply an enjoyable summer abroad; her experiences in Venezuela will serve to fuel and inspire her goals for the future.
International Work, Internship, and Volunteer Experience (Hiatt Career Center)