From an early age, I had a strong desire to be of value to others—starting with my parents, extending to my friends, and eventually to my broader community. This aspiration likely stemmed from observing my parents’ commitment to ensuring that all of their children receive an education. Unfortunately, I witnessed many of my acquaintances end up on a different path, becoming unskilled workers after leaving their education early. Being aware of the lack of inclusion in my community influenced my educational and professional life, and I hope to reduce that lack of inclusion, bridging the gaps and having a positive impact on the community I love.
I began my career in microfinance, learning how it contributes to financial inclusion by providing capital for people to grow family businesses and create jobs. However, after learning more about the credit system and borrowers’ consumption habits while working in the field, I realized that money alone was insufficient.
I saw a need for structural policies to be implemented. Thus, I decided to study economics and enrolled in a master’s program, where I graduated with distinctions. Although it was a highly intensive course taught by visiting Thai professors in Myanmar, I gained quantitative and conceptual skills that allowed me to work at a government think tank.
While at the think tank, I was involved in a project that supports Myanmar’s sustainable development agenda by aligning government projects with the sustainable development plan. I worked with well-known policy researchers in digital financial services, promoting financial inclusion in Myanmar, and conducted a study on the expansion of digital micropayment tools in Taiwan. As a co-researcher for the USAID-ASEAN digital data governance project, I conducted a situational analysis of digital data governance in Myanmar, interviewing relevant ministries and stakeholders.
With each of these projects, I gained first-hand experience with policy in my country. Most policies require gross cost-benefit analysis to justify action but often fail to consider social and environmental impacts.
- Age: 30
- Ethnicity: Rakhine
- Country: Myanmar
School & Program
- Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
- Master’s, International Relations
- 1st Year in Program
Goals & Dreams
- Become a development consultant
- Contribute to Myanmar’s development through research and policy
- Travel to Turkey
- Loan Amount: $5,950
- Amount Left To Fund: $5,725
- Contract Duration: 12 years
- Status: In School
What Others Are Saying About Cho
In addition, the range of accessible techniques and required human resources are restricted, leading to reliance upon international consultants’ support. I believe that the knowledge I gain from the MAIA program at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), combined with what I learned at the University of Bologna, will help me address this issue.
During a year in the MAIA program, I will use the SAIS academic spaces to enhance my skills and professional networking. Johns Hopkins is an important hub for inter-disciplinary research. I look forward to learning about the experiences of my peers from other countries and how they encourage evidence-based policy implementation. Moreover, I expect to interact with the SAIS community in a way that allows me to work with them on different policy projects in the future. Finally, at SAIS, I can make friends and share my experiences in a like-minded community, engaging in insightful and mutually beneficial discussion.
My career aspirations center on returning to Myanmar with the purpose of contributing to its sustainable development through the formulation and design of impactful policies and initiatives. I hope to establish myself as a development consultant who can teach others how to craft comprehensive development policies; I hope to conduct and publish my own research involving crucial development topics. In the short and middle term, I want to engage with economic development think tanks and international agencies, where I can learn from world experts on how to apply my academic knowledge in the field. I am confident that my dual degree from Johns Hopkins SAIS and the University of Bologna will have a significant impact on my professional life, as I increase my value to my community, country, and Southeast Asia, my place of origin.
Written by Cho with editing assistance from Zomia’s volunteer editors.
“My strong life purpose has always been to achieve academic excellence and to become a catalyst for change, bringing together influential organizations and social initiatives in underdeveloped nations.”