How can intercultural communication impact peace? Mia Moran, a junior minoring in peace studies, is motivated by this question. Originally from Tokyo, Japan, Mia was selected for Notre Dame’s pre-college Summer Scholars program, volunteered for the community unity garden, and participated in the United Nation’s 2022 #SheLeads4Peace program. In this student Q&A, Mia discusses what led her to Notre Dame, what inspired her interest in peace studies, and her possible future career paths.
What inspired you to study at Notre Dame?
My father is an alumnus, which is how I was first introduced to the university. He served as the president of the Notre Dame Club of Tokyo, and something that the club would do, especially for study abroad students, is to host Thanksgiving. Typically it’s around that time that U.S. students start to get homesick. I grew up seeing how global the Notre Dame network is. I also really appreciated how much Notre Dame incorporated service and morality. My hope in coming here was that I could grow my education and grow as a person, and that I could also incorporate morality and ethics into what I do and who I become. Oftentimes we can get caught up in day-to-day pressures, or financial pressures, and it can be easy to lose sight of what it means to be a global citizen. I really appreciate how Notre Dame incorporates holistic development into the educational experience.
Why did you choose to study peace?
I have enjoyed the privilege of traveling and being exposed to the international sphere, which has helped to develop my interest in global affairs and international relations. I am interested in peace studies specifically because I have always had the desire to help cultivate peace and unity. My mother is Japanese and my father is American. My parents speak both languages fluently, but miscommunication can still occur. In international settings, there can be certain assumptions we make based on our cultural backgrounds and norms. People not only communicate differently, but they behave differently based on different socializations, and this example shows how a simple source for conflict to arise could be easily mitigated as well. Cross-cultural awareness is critical to advancing peace and unity, but also to creating space for us to productively work together.
What has your experience been like thus far?
It's been fantastic. I was a resident volunteer at a homeless shelter in Illinois through the Center for Social Concerns’ Summer Service Learning Program. That experience provided me with valuable insight into how circumstances can impact someone’s life. There is value in gaining first-hand experience in this because it can be so easy to forget that we all have the same thing in common: being human.
You participated in the #SheLeads4Peace Summer School last year. Can you share with us what the program is and what impact it has had on you?
The Kroc Institute sponsored me and a few other undergraduate students to attend the #SheLeads4Peace’s two-week summer school in Geneva, Switzerland, through the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. Being exposed to the roles of young women in peacebuilding and seeing the need for more women to occupy these spaces was an amazing experience. It was insightful for me and my peers to listen to women in leadership share their obstacles, triumphs, and advice. They coached us through defining our interests, goals, and career plans. It was #SheLeads4Peace that sparked my interest in mediation training. We also had the chance to meet with Kroc alumni at dinner. I appreciated the time we spent bonding with them and absorbing all their life experiences and guidance. I left #SheLeads4Peace with greater direction, motivation, and community.
Graduation is a year away! Where do you see yourself after May 2024?
I am open to all possibilities! I am ready to put myself out there, pursue various opportunities, and take my time discovering where I feel like I make the biggest impact. Currently, I am drawn toward working in the international sphere. I am considering interning for non-governmental organizations, gaining a few years of work experience, and then coming back to Notre Dame for my Master’s degree.
What advice would you give an incoming freshman who is interested in studying peace?
My advice is to take the Introduction to Peace Studies course. It is accessible to all undergraduate students. Look for courses that are cross-listed with peace studies. Incorporate a peace studies major or supplementary minor. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to stay curious, explore, discover, and take advantage of every opportunity you can. You never know where it can lead you!