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2022 Fellow

Fátima Lagunas

2022 Korea-Michigan Human Rights Research Fellow

Fátima Lagunas
BA International Studies (Global Environment and Health) ‘23

“Over the summer, I got the opportunity to be a recipient of the Donia Human Rights Research Fellowship, in which I received a grant of $3,500 to attend Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, South Korea for a month (June 20 - July 20). As a first-generation student at the University of Michigan, I never imagined myself being able to study abroad, especially in a country, whose language I am not fluent. Throughout the days leading up to my departure, I was very nervous about how I would manage to navigate through Seoul to get to my dormitory. Looking back at it, there were a lot of things that I wish I could change when going on this trip, I wish there would have been more communication between the program on both campuses. I had to figure out a lot of things on my own, which I know could have been avoided. Nevertheless, I was able to figure it all out, and I was able to learn new things about myself when traveling. I chose my major with the purpose of being able to discover my passion for traveling. When I made the decision to study abroad, I chose to go to South Korea because I knew that it would be a challenge for me and that it would teach me a lot about what it means to truly travel for work and education.

Overall, the experience for me was something that, although very difficult at first, I regret. From learning so much about South Korean cultures and their norms, I was able to take an AI for Social Innovations course where students from institutions from all over the world also came and shared their cultures and norms. I learned so much about discrimination in South Korea and how that compares and contrasts with discrimination in the U.S as well as in countries around the world. After my experience in South Korea, I realized how much I care about the different environments that exist in the world. I was able to appreciate my culture and my city so much more. I loved having the opportunity to travel to South Korea because it has always been a dream of mine. I was able to learn so much about traveling alone and figuring out a post-pandemic way of traveling. I was able to learn about the problems that different countries hope to address in relation to international studies, but more specifically having to do with my areas of study in global environment and health.

Being able to take such an amazing course, AI for Social Innovation, with Professor Koo, I was able to have such an amazing mentor to help me be able to find the connection between my passion for the environment and the impact that different careers within my area of studies would have on making a difference in the world. I was able to learn coding and technology terms and skills that could be used in the future. Having Professor Koo as a mentor during those weeks was such a learning and joyful experience.

Overall, this is an experience that I would not have the luxury of giving myself if it were not for the amazing opportunity that PICS and the Donia Human Rights Center gave me. I learned so much in just one month abroad, and I am grateful and excited for the new person that I have become. As I begin my final year of undergraduate, I am so happy to see the changes that this experience has had on me and the way I will be able to continue to connect everything I learned and experienced with both my final year of studies and my future career endeavors.”