London and Law: Thoughts on Global Citizenship from Dayna Mathew

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Dayna Mathew smiling at the camera

While interning with a non-profit in London, Dayna Mathew (IES Internships London, Summer 2017 | Loyola University Chicago) says she discovered her true passion—helping women pursue better lives. Dayna was named a Global Citizen of the Year Finalist for her contributions to Working Chance, a recruitment consultancy for women ex-offenders, creating the MORE campaign.

We caught up with Dayna to hear how her passion sparked during her internship abroad continues to drive her as she pursues both a law degree and master's degree from University of Cincinnati.


IES Abroad: The theme of the 2019 Global Citizen of the Year application is all about finding your place in the world. How did studying abroad help you find yours?

Dayna Mathew (DM): Before studying abroad, I kind of knew that I wanted to be an attorney, but I didn't have any direction as to what type of law I wanted to pursue. So, I actually put on my IES Abroad application for the London Internship that I wanted to intern with the Barrister's Office, but the people reviewing my application didn't know if they could place me there because of governmental restrictions in London.

I ended up working at Working Chance, and that's kind of where I found my true passion, which is really to help women pursue better lives—whether they be incarcerated or survivors of domestic violence or those seeking more reproductive health resources. So basically, studying abroad gave me the opportunity to find my place in the world without me even realizing it was what I needed.

IES Abroad: Concerning your Global Citizen of the Year personal statement where you said you were "drowning in [your] own privilege," what advice do you have for others in recognizing their own privileges and prejudices?

DM: First of all, I think students going abroad should recognize that going abroad is a privilege itself, especially considering the political climate of the United States. Not everyone is able to travel as much as they may like or let alone have the opportunity to take classes outside of the traditional classroom. So I think recognizing all of the opportunities one has in comparison to others is kind of a key step in recognizing both privilege and prejudice. The next step is to ask yourself why others may not have the same opportunities as you and work to change that. People can celebrate the differences between cultures and peoples, but in the end, we're all human, and we all live in one world, so we have to work to make it better.

IES Abroad: Changing the cultural stigma around people who have been incarcerated can feel like an overwhelming challenge, but it's definitely a worthy cause that you are clearly passionate about. What are some actions that individuals and communities can make to help change the stigma?

DM: Basically, take every opportunity possible to engage in restorative justice-oriented events. So things like job fairs, reformative prison movements, toiletry drives, what have you. Usually, each metropolitan city has those things going on, and there's a lot of different restorative justice organizations and communities that host different things, and I would say go to them because while you can hear about people in prison, you never really actually recognize who they are or what they are doing or what they are in for or anything like that until you actually go meet them or get involved with the people who are in charge. So I would say definitely take all of those opportunities.

Also, just keep informed or keep being informed about what is going on in terms of criminal justice reform. There are a lot of laws that go into what happens to people in prison or right now, all the laws with marijuana being legalized might possibly get some people out of prison. Reading up on stuff like that is really important just to keep you informed in general. A lot of people don't believe that criminals deserve a lot because of what they have done, but I think that learning their stories offers new perspectives. So the best piece of advice I have is to just keep an open mind because they're people too.

IES Abroad: What are some of your favorite resources to keep up on current happenings in the world of law and politics?

DM: I really like the National Institute of Justice. They're a big organization, and they put a lot out about what's going on. I just keep the news app and I do the highlights reel. Usually, they'll talk about the big laws. I follow a lot of Supreme Courts cases to see what will happen with them through their own news as well. So basically just the news for the most part and then the National Institute of Justice is also a really good resource. You can also find articles about specific prisoners in the New York Times and stuff, too, but it doesn't always have to be the big news. So, yeah, just keep your eyes open.

IES Abroad: A year after being named a Global Citizen of the Year finalist and graduating from undergrad, what do you reflect on retrospectively? Is there anything you've been able to learn or process differently now that some time has passed? And is there anything you would do differently in your study abroad experience if you could?

DM: Ultimately, I learned to challenge myself because if I can travel to a different country, intern abroad, apply to be a Global Citizen, and then somehow, miraculously, become a finalist, why should I not push myself to go outside of my own comfort zone? That lesson, of pushing yourself beyond what you may consider your limit, is what has led me to pursue avenues that I wouldn't have even thought to pursue before. So I think if I had to go back, I would go back and then take even more risks the second time around.

IES Abroad: In your own words, why should future study abroad students care about the world?

DM: Well, one thing is because it's ours. I mean, that's kind of simple, but it really is. It's where we're growing up, where we are becoming educated, where we are taking opportunities, and it's where we are living. So it's up to us to make it the best place for ourselves and even for future generations. And I think the study abroad students are the people who want to expand their horizons. They're already taking the opportunity to travel and learn more about the world, so I think they are on the forefront of it. If people are to truly all be equal one day, which I think should be the world's goal in general, then it starts with those who care, and the people who study abroad are great leaders to start that.

IES Abroad: What advice would you share with others looking to make a difference in the world?

DM: Stay informed. Don't be afraid to ask questions. A lot of people are sometimes afraid to raise their hand or ask certain things that might make them feel uncomfortable, but I think that's something that you have to do because it's all about gaining more perspective and learning other people's stories. So I think that's where you start looking to make a difference in the world, just by learning about other people, learning about their lives, and then trying to go forward from there.


IES Abroad: When you applied, you shared that you were planning on going to law school to pursue a career as a defense attorney. Is that still what you're working towards? If so, what has that experience been like for you?

DM: I am going to law school, but I'm going to do University of Cincinnati's JDMA program, so it's not only just Law School. I'm actually getting a Master's, specifically in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I want to work with women specifically, and Working Chance kind of pushed me towards that. I'd been working more with women my senior year of college, and since doing that, I really want to work on women's issues. So one day, I'm hoping to eventually work for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the Women's Rights division. So I guess that would be my ultimate goal.

IES Abroad: What was your experience like figuring out where you wanted to apply, and deciding on going to the University of Cincinnati and doing that double program—not just law school, not just a Master's degree, but both?

DM: I looked at schools everywhere because I knew that I wanted to work with women specifically. So I was looking at internships and externship opportunities with certain schools that offered opportunities to go abroad again (I looked into Notre Dame pretty seriously), and then I looked at places that worked with the Women's Project and ACLU. So I kind of used that as my narrowing criteria.

I looked at schools that had something for human rights law, which is what women's law falls under. I looked at schools that specialized in those things versus corporate law or something, which is interesting, but just not my cup of tea. I narrowed it down based on what the certain schools offered in terms of human rights law and then externships and opportunities like that, and then Cincinnati was the one that kept on sticking out. I learned about their master's program really late, actually, in the application cycle. And I was like, there's no way that I'll get in. But that's kind of how I thought for the Global Citizen thing, too, if I'm going to be honest. And I was like, okay, but I'll just apply and see. And sure enough, I got in. I'm really ecstatic about it.

IES Abroad: Was there anything else about global citizenship or your life studying abroad that you feel is pertinent to share, or you're just excited about in general?

DM: I'm excited about everything, and I honestly think people should apply to be a Global Citizen. I cannot emphasize that enough: definitely apply. Even if you think you won't get it, just do it. If anything, the application itself is a really good place to write down all of your thoughts about what you experienced abroad. And even now, a year later, I still go back to my essay, and I read over it, and I become inspired all over again. Just look back on what you're doing and be proud of it.

Where will you find your place in the world? Read about 6 Ways to Discover Your Global Citizenship While Studying Abroad.

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