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Sarena Talbot with a young friend in Cuba.

Childhood travel sparks passion for change

October 7, 2010

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Sarena Talbot traveled around the world with her parents at age 11, staying in Africa, Southeast Asia, India, Europe and Australia with host families found through Servas, an international peace organization. The trip left her passionate about making positive change at home and overseas.

So when Talbot began studying political science at SFU five years ago on a National Millennium Excellence Award, a Premier’s Excellence Award and a Gordon Shrum scholarship, she was intent on learning to contribute to the field of social justice.

But the following year SFU introduced a new BA in international studies. It was a perfect fit for Talbot, since the program focuses on international issues such as peace and security, governance and civil society, and human rights and international law. Students must also learn a second language and spend a semester studying or working abroad.

Talbot chose to study Spanish, a language she was introduced to during a trip to Cuba after high school. She improved her skills between semesters, volunteering and learning Spanish in Argentina for a month, and then chose Cuba for her semester abroad.

It was a complementary series of hands-on classes in sustainable community development through SFU’s City Program, however, that really drove home her academic lessons.

"I feel change can really start to happen when people are empowered to work for change in their own community," she says. "That’s an important model, whether in international development or locally."

Talbot now works part-time for CoDevelopment Canada, a B.C.-based non-profit that supports community groups in Latin America, organizing educational programs and doing Spanish-English translation.

She’s also Servas Canada’s youth coordinator and was recently elected internal executive chair of the Coalition of Progressive Electors or COPE, a Vancouver political coalition.

"My goal is to bring about positive change," says Talbot. "Now that I’ve graduated, I’m trying to see where I can be most effective."

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