10th Anniversary Campaign

UWC ISAK Alumna Nora Nyi Myint’s Mission for Peace in Myanmar

UWC ISAK Japan alumna Nora Nyi Myint (’18) is at the forefront of advocating for peace in Myanmar following the 2021 military coup that led to a violent civil conflict. As a Senior Program Associate for Burma at the International Republican Institute in Washington D.C., Nora leverages her Temporary Protected Status in the U.S. despite the risks of arrest or mandatory conscription back home. Her commitment to advancing a peaceful future for her country, Myanmar, is evident in her relentless efforts, one courageous step at a time.

Nora’s current picture at International Republican Institute (IRI) headquarters, serving as the Senior Program Associate for Burma portfolio.

UWC ISAK’s Impact on Nora’s Resilience

During a tumultuous period following the 2021 coup in Myanmar, Nora, an alumna of UWC ISAK Japan, shared her emotional turmoil as a student in the U.S., distanced from her family amid the crisis. “I lived the most unbearable times of my life after the coup in February 2021,” Nora recalls.

When the coup took place, it happened in the evening for her in the U.S. but during the morning for her parents back in Myanmar. Torturous thoughts that her family might not be there the next day to greet her robbed her of sleep each night. Her worries were not unfounded. Since the coup, multitudes have been displaced (2.6 million as of February 2024). Thankfully, her family was eventually able to escape to safety abroad in December 2022.

Nora at a march on April 16, 2022, in Washington D.C., on the one-year anniversary of the establishment of the National Unity Government.

“My parents lived their whole life in a dictatorship. They were just starting to see the changes of a young democracy and some peace, and now this. As a university student at the time, I felt utterly useless and hopeless. Being in the U.S. was a blessing and a curse: I was safe, but my loved ones were not. I couldn’t be there to help, yet I couldn’t study, eat, or sleep where I was.”

Reflecting on this time of distress, Nora remembers a poignant lesson from her Leadership teacher at UWC ISAK, Mr. McGibbon; what you do is what you practice and soon will become a habit. She realized that she could go on being anxious and hateful against the military until these emotions overwhelmed her and defined her identity. So, she started practicing self-care to shift the dynamic into something more positive. “The moment I started practicing caring for myself based on what I learned at UWC ISAK, it got a little bit easier every day. Until one day, I could finally breathe again. UWC ISAK teachers and peers used to ask us: what are you practicing? Is that helpful? That was a big takeaway for me. It was then that I realized that community-care comes from self-care.”

Nora and UWC ISAK Japan friends all dressed up before going to the Obon Matsuri in town.

Model U.N. to Global Stage

Nora has always aspired to be a diplomat, representing Myanmar on a global stage. From a young age, she engaged in Model United Nations, inspired by the Myanmar diplomat and third secretary-general of the U.N., U Thant. She recalls, “I thought, if I get the chance to go abroad, I want to represent my country well.”

Nora’s experiences at UWC ISAK profoundly shaped her worldview, often leading to reverse culture shock upon returning to Myanmar during school breaks. She shared, “Culture in Burma is very patriarchal, and I was often silenced when speaking out. People back home used to tell me, ‘There’s no space for women like you.'” In contrast, UWC ISAK fostered an environment where she was encouraged to express herself and recognize her potential as a leader, embodying the school’s motto of being catalysts for positive change.

Nora and fellow Burmese students at Luther College manning the Myanmar booth at the culture fair in their traditional costumes. Four of them are UWC alumni.
Nora as the President of Luther College’s Model United Nations Club and fellow members attending the 60th Midwest Model United Nations Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.

Unstoppable Activism

Nora is deeply committed to creating positive change, and her actions consistently reflect her unquenchable courage. While at Luther College, she united five Burmese students, most of whom were alumni of different UWC institutions, to voice their opposition against the military, marking the beginning of her activism journey. She played a pivotal role at the start of Sisters 2 Sisters, an organization dedicated to aiding women affected by conflict in Myanmar. Their united efforts culminated in her representing the organization at the United Nations, presenting on the Myanmar conflict to the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls. “All my MUN experience came in handy!” she shares with a laugh.

Nora and fellow members of Sisters 2 Sisters, display the symbol of the Myanmar revolution for the #RedLipsSpeakTruthToPower campaign on June 19, 2021, the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

As a Senior Program Associate for Burma at the International Republican Institute, Nora collaborates with the U.S. government to foster a brighter future for Myanmar, focusing on civil engagement, reconciliation, and peace. She has a keen interest in transitional justice and a particular focus on what denazification could look like in the context of engaging with the Myanmar military defectors and is an avid reader on the topic. Nora aspires to further her impact by pursuing a master’s degree in peace and conflict resolution.

Nora and IRI staff of the Asia-Pacific Division celebrating Lunar New Year together.

Paying it Forward: Gratitude for Educational Support

Nora maintains her dream of becoming a diplomat. She aims to be a vital link between Myanmar and the global community, actively participating in international discourse. She credits a significant part of her vision to her time at UWC ISAK. “UWC ISAK played a massive role in realizing that we need to keep the dialogue alive for peace,” she explains. The education she received there, encompassing design innovation and leadership, taught her creative strategies for achieving objectives and finding common ground.

She deeply values the philosophy instilled by UWC ISAK Japan, emphasizing the importance of every individual’s role as a catalyst for positive change and fostering peace. Nora feels that her experiences in being part of Project Iridescent for CAS on eradicating gender inequality in Japan, interfaith club, MUN club and just being surrounded by inspiring youth from all around the world fully prepared her for her calling in life.  “UWC ISAK Japan told us that we all mattered. That we may not be the immediate change, but we were part of the process to make things faster and peace more attainable. The school didn’t show us the way but helped us figure out the way,” Nora reflects on her educational journey.

Her gratitude extends to the life-changing opportunity originally extended to her by Mr. Jemison, the founding head of the school, who invited her to join on a full scholarship after she attended ISAK’s leadership summer school in 2014. “I cannot imagine what my life would be like without UWC ISAK, without all these people telling me I believe in you,” she shares, acknowledging the supporters who ensure that financial barriers do not prevent students like her from accessing quality education and making a meaningful impact.

Nora’s journey underscores her commitment to contributing toward peace in Myanmar, fueled by her education and the support of her community.

Nora and friends from different countries in their traditional outfits on September 23-24, the day ISAK officially became part of the UWC movement and became UWC ISAK Japan.

Find more UWC ISAK Japan alumni stories on our Leaders Beacon Blog.

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