Besan studied the impact of introducing formal volunteering in Guatemala. “Volunteering in Canada is very organized whereas in Guatemala it is a part of life. The Guatemalan government wanted to introduce formal volunteering and I was studying its social impact. I interviewed a lot of people and compiled a lot of data. It was very interesting to know their local perspective,” she says.
Besan realized she and her Canadian peers never thought of development work in Canada the way Guatemalan students did. “As a developed Western nation, we never look inwards. After talking and spending a summer with Guatemalan students, I understood better than ever before that Canada, too, has similar socio-economic problems which the mainstream commonly does not pay attention to.”
Complementing her interest in international development, Besan is also active locally. In 2011 she joined the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) – a student-led and student-funded resource hub that provides students with avenues to be active around political and environmental issues by launching campaigns or connecting with other activist organizations.
At SFPIRG, Besan organized the round-table “Re-thinking Development”, and she helped support anti-oppression efforts, which eventually included a radical accessibility survey to examine issues of access including wheelchair accessibility, scent sensitivity, and sign language interpretation. “We conducted many training workshops so students could be more knowledgeable about how to host events and engage with communities and how to suit and serve as many people as possible and to understand their needs.”
After finishing her program in April this year, Besan plans to find work in the non-profit sector with a social advocacy group abroad. "During my time at the School of International Studies, I enjoyed hearing the reasons for disagreement between different students, professors, and theorists. I liked hearing about other people's opinions and knowing about the opinions that are typically silenced. My degree has taught me a lot about highlighting the voices that are not listened to. And that is what I aim to do in the future, with an anti-oppressive analysis that continues to deepen."