We are often stuck in our own little worlds and are too busy to even realize what is happening around us. I know that I sometimes forget that I’m not the only person on this Earth and that there are much bigger problems than my outfit malfunctions happening in the world. In a girl’s world, outfit changes might be the only change throughout the day, but there is much more undergoing transformation. We are too blind to see the global changes occurring and the developments that are taking place daily. Even if we do see them, social relationships, inequalities and migration in other parts of this world may seem unimportant to us.
For graduate student Maryann Bylander, however, these global changes have been a part of her life for years. She finds these global changes much more important to us than we realize. Although Maryann graduated as a Political Science major from Rice University, she now attends UT and studies Sociology. It wasn’t until her senior year of undergraduate school that Bylander found herself in a Sociology class, and from that moment, she embarked on a journey leading to a passion for the subject.
Immediately after graduating, she studied abroad in a small town in Japan where she taught English. At the time, numerous Peruvians immigrated into Japan to work in factories, and because of her Brazilian characteristics, she was often misconstrued as a factory worker. Maryann was often treated differently from other Americans by the Japanese citizens. After personally experiencing how social relationships worked, by not only living amongst new people but by also being treated differently, Bylander soon became interested in the topic of migration and the idea of globalization.
In 2004, Maryann visited Cambodia as a tourist but soon found she would be returning to volunteer three years later. One of Bylander’s close friends started a non-profit organization, and because she knew of Bylander’s interest and studies in Sociology, she was asked to be on the board of directors. Maryann moved there in June, where she began doing fundraising to build a school with the organization PEPY.
The non-profit organization promotes quality education for the generations of Cambodia. She began to learn the language, interacted with the native people, and began researching the development of the country. She was asked to do stay in Cambodia to work for the organization and manage interns for three months, but that quickly turned into years. From June 2007 to December 2010, Bylander spent her time in a rural community working on education programs and spent some time in a tourist-heavy province.
After her three-and-a-half year run of working in Cambodia, Maryann returned to Texas, where she entered graduate school. Currently, you can find her teaching a course called Introduction to Sociology of Development. Her experiences and her journey not only gave her knowledge about non-profit organizations but also opened her eyes to the importance of the developing worlds. She says her experiences made her a confident and knowledgeable person while teaching her that there is a lot we can learn from developing countries.