Bridging cultures to resolve conflicts
When Marlon Wijesekara was fifteen years old, he and his family left their native Sri Lanka, a small third world island still troubled by its Thirty Years War, and built a new life on the West Coast of the USA, the major super power. “It was, at first, culture shock,” Marlon says. In his systematic way, he set about analyzing and weighing the positives and negatives. “I can say I have experienced quite a lot.”
His background proved to be no disadvantage to Marlon who made the President’s Honor Roll, earning a place in Who’s Who among High School Students. He’d joined the Student Buddhist Movement in high school, and then at San Diego State University, he also joined the Methodist Campus Ministry, remaining active in both. The Wesley Foundation Director described Marlon as “a bridge person who, in his multi-national, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-religious background, can see that there are different perspectives on all major issues that contribute to conflict among peoples and nations.” Proficiency in his major in international securities and conflict resolution came naturally to Marlon.
Between semesters, he gained practical experience in interacting with people from many backgrounds when he managed his parents’ small hotel for three months during one summer while they were overseas. He also learned a great deal about keeping employee satisfaction levels high enough to insure maximum efficiency. Yet, hotel management was not to be part of his career goals.
He readied himself for his own trip abroad since he was about to become an Associate Fellow at Oxford Institute of International Law And Justice. There, he compared European and British political systems and international law, focusing on migration, security, ethnicity issues, and political responses. He also met with prominent British diplomats and officials to discuss current issues, measures, and outcomes. Marlon had earned a certificate of international relations before heading over to Ireland for a brief study visit. In his travels during that time, he encountered certain resentments against Americans and recommends that we make efforts to break stereotypes and myths about US citizens. He advocates conscientious conduct while in foreign countries, because “in a sense, we are all diplomats in other nations.”
Next, Marlon attended the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), again studying international relations. He represented the US at the International Student Festival in Trondheim, which was attended by young leaders from a hundred countries. “We discussed and debated issues ranging from nuclear arms proliferation to global warming,” Marlon says.
Back in San Diego, he served as an intern for the World Affairs Council where he met influential individuals from various cultures, gained insight into international businesses, diplomacy, policy research, and NGO operations involving humanitarian work. Marlon Wijesekara is committed to making the world a better place.
Update: Marlon worked as an intern for Senator Diane Feinstein for six months, tracking legislation and researching issues. He then received two scholarships and earned his master’s degree in public administration from SDSU. He next became a legal intern at the law offices of Gittel Gordon, followed by a community outreach internship at the mayor’s office in San Diego. He is now a juris doctor candidate at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law.