Alumni Interview: Meghan McMurray
Class of 2017 | Years at ISPP 2015 – 2017
Hello! I’m Meghan and I attended ISPP from 2015-2017 and was a member of the 2017 graduating class. My family is from the United States but I grew up moving around every two to three years, both domestically and internationally. The first few years of my life were spent in Washington, Hawaii, and Virginia. Our first overseas experience was Kyiv, Ukraine then Vancouver, Canada. After returning to the U.S. and spending a couple of years in Oregon we were excited to move back overseas – my dad’s work brought us to Phnom Penh! We had visited Thailand before but never Cambodia and quickly fell in love with it. We moved back to Hawaii after I graduated and then closer to family in Kansas City, Missouri in 2019 where we live now.
My sister and I loved our time at ISPP and think of it fondly. ISPP was incredibly welcoming, the teachers were engaging, and there were so many opportunities for students. I always had an interest in both athletics and the arts but felt torn between them in the U.S. At ISPP, I was granted so many avenues to participate in both. And the support from the community was immense – everyone loved to cheer on sports teams and go see the school production. Extracurriculars are such an important way to explore your passions and connect with those around you. Participating in them in high school also serves as good practice for university. At least for those attending university in the United States, my greatest piece of advice is to get involved! It is the best way to make friends and find a group that holds similar interests.
My university journey was less than conventional. I completed my first year at Western Washington University and then transferred to the Honors College at Louisiana State University for my sophomore year. Family health concerns brought me closer to home so I transferred to Northwest Missouri State University in 2019 and completed my final two years there. I majored in Economics with a minor in International Studies. Pretty fitting given my background!
As for where I’m at in life now, my interest in academia and the field of International Relations inspired me to pursue my master’s degree. I just finished my first of two years of the Master of International Affairs program at Missouri State University where I will also graduate with a certificate in Defense and Strategic Studies. I was fortunate enough to secure an internship here in Cambodia for the summer with the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Center. It is an incredible opportunity to explore my interest in the intersection of security, politics, economics and the field of humanitarian mine action. It is truly inspiring work and one I have a more vested interest in given my experience living in Cambodia and learning of its history and struggle with remnants of war. I still don’t know where I will end up post-graduation but would love to continue the nomadic lifestyle I grew up with.
Which countries have you travelled to?
I’ve travelled to or lived in the United States, Canada, Ukraine, Egypt, France, Croatia, Spain, Portugal, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, and of course Cambodia.
Can you speak the languages of the countries you have lived in?
I wish I could say I was fluent in another language but my Spanish isn’t bad. I also studied Russian in Ukraine and French in Canada (though those are more fun party tricks than useful for me anymore!) I picked up a bit of Khmer (and I mean very little) while living in Phnom Penh but not as much as I should have.
What are your hobbies? What do you end up doing in your spare time?
I have always been a fan of sports and exercise and that has continued through university and graduation. I like to run, swim, lift weights, play soccer, and I played water polo while I was a student at LSU. I was involved in a lot of musical activities during my time at ISPP but unfortunately haven’t pursued as many opportunities associated with that passion after high school. I also like to volunteer in my free time, at least once a week. I was working at a local youth center this past year that I really enjoyed.
What did you love most about studying in an international school?
ISPP, like my previous international schools, was on the smaller side. I lucked out with great classmates and teachers so the intimacy of classes was a plus for me – I felt like I received a really quality education (also since it was impossible to hide in a crowd). I also like how internationally oriented our curriculum was. In the US, global/cultural content is not prioritized. I loved having novels from different countries in literature class and case studies from abroad in business management. And that foreign languages were taken seriously – my Spanish classes were so fun but also developed my abilities immensely.
How has your perspective changed after living in many countries?
It’s stereotypical to say but I think I’m more open-minded and curious/receptive to new things. My parents ensured that we learned about different cultures and experienced different things – sometimes you can travel somewhere and not really push your boundaries. Being aware of other issues in the world also puts a lot of your experience back home into perspective. People, especially in the U.S., get very consumed by domestic occurrences and don’t care to see what is going on outside.
How much has Phnom Penh changed since you attended ISPP?
So many tall buildings/skyscrapers! The cityscape looked so different flying in. Also, there are a lot more cars on the road, and Grab/PassApp rickshaws are more dominant than the old school tuk tuks. But a lot of things are still the same and many of my favorite restaurants are still around.
What is your favourite ISPP memory?
I don’t have a single one but every MRISA event I attended was such a great memory for me. I also loved the little moments of going to the cafe between classes or having lunch with friends. I really loved my experience at ISPP and all of my fond memories are centered around the community I had.
Do you think it’s okay to not have clear plans for your future?
Yes! As long as you are trying your best, putting in the work to improve and make yourself as qualified as possible (good grades, networking, involvement) you will be fine. Besides, so many people end up in a field that is not exactly aligned with what they studied in university. Just experience/try new things and invest in yourself.
What are your career goals?
I really love international public sector work for how dynamic and impactful it can be. For a while, I was set on U.S. Foreign Service (which I am still interested in!) but my current and previous internship experiences have opened the door to more humanitarian work specifically in my action. There are so many great opportunities in international work I haven’t completely decided – I still have a year left of my graduate degree program so I have some time, though!
This interview was first published in the ISPP Pulse Magazine (May – July 2022).
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