Spotlight: Kalika Kastein, Class of XVI Rotary Peace Fellow

Each year, The Rotary Foundation awards up to 50 fellowships for master’s degrees and 50 for certificate studies at premier universities in six locations around the world. In the summer of 2019, Kalika Kastein, an outgoing Class of XVI Rotary Peace Fellow from International Christian University (ICU), Tokyo, will graduate from her master’s degree.

Kalika considers Hawai’i home and was sponsored by Kona Sunrise Rotary Club. Her background is in education, and prior to moving to Japan as a Rotary Peace Fellow, she was working as a public schoolteacher in Hawai’i. Here Kalika shares some of her ideas and insights into the Rotary Peace Fellowship in an interview conducted and written by incoming ICU Class of XVIII fellow, Lorraine Hayman, and edited by Kalika. You can connect with Kalika and Lorraine on LinkedIn.

Kalika (bottom left) with the rest of Class of XVI (credit: Rotary)

Lorraine: How did you hear of the Rotary Peace Fellowship?

Kalika: I heard about the fellowship through a Rotary alumni I met in passing. This experience made me realise how important it is to reach out to others. I have put this into practice during my second year as a fellow, contacting former students of mine to encourage them to apply.

What convinced you to actually apply for the fellowship?

Prior to my application, I took part in professional development training for educators centered around peace through a program called Ceeds of Peace, led by Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng and Dr. Kerrie Urosevich. It trained me in ways to encourage grassroots peace projects in my community and school. Through Ceeds of Peace, I learned how to empower my students to become peacebuilders. Some people think that to do the Rotary Peace Fellowship you have to be engaged in work in large international organizations, like the United Nations, however, you can be a teacher and be a peace advocate; something I realised after experiencing the Ceeds of Peace programme.

As a teacher, I meet students at in a stage of their life when they are impressionable. It’s a huge responsibility, but there is opportunity to have a great impact too. Teachers are in the position to work behind the scenes to inspire their students to make changes in the world.

Why did you choose ICU as your first choice Rotary Peace Centre?

My main reason was how multidisciplinary the program at ICU is. At ICU there are a diverse range of subjects to study, such as education, and community action research, alongside peace studies. Because of this multidisciplinary approach, ICU has pushed me to pursue different interests.

A great example of this is a law competition I took part in with some other undergraduate students at ICU. The approaches we took to problem solving during the competition were shaped by our multidisciplinary studies at ICU. Combine this with stepping into the classroom with other peace fellows, which is certainly one of the most diverse environments I have ever been in, and it all has encouraged  me to think about peace in a different way.

The drive leading to ICU during Cherry Blossom season (credit: Rotary)

What was your first month in Japan like?

To be honest, it was a little disorientating. Culture shock is a factor that impacts a lot of the new fellows. It is quite hot in Japan in the summer, which was uncomfortable. Also, I couldn’t speak or read the language and so it meant that even basic daily activities, like going to the supermarket, became challenging. However, I found the community around ICU incredibly supportive. In addition to the month-long language course provided by Rotary, I also enrolled into language courses at ICU, which has really helped me settle into life in Japan.

How has your relationship with the Rotary developed over the past two years?

Before the fellowship my only interaction with Rotary had been with a Rotary Club in Cameroon that I worked with while I was in the Peace Corps to transport books into the country for a library project.

Now as part of the fellowship, I have developed relationships with local Rotary clubs here, my community host, and have deepened ties with Rotarians from Hawai’i. During my first month in Japan, Rotary generously delivered language and cultural lessons for fellows. As I look towards the my life post-graduation, I reached out to Rotary in New Zealand and got on a club email list. After the recent Christchurch shootings in March 2019, I was  struck by how quickly the district and clubs mobilized and stood in solidarity with the Muslim community, coming together to provide grocery, petrol, and taxi vouchers as well as medical funds for victims and their families. It shows the power of the Rotary network in globally addressing issues threatening peace in local communities.

What have been your best and most challenging experiences during the fellowship?

I have to use a metaphor for this one. I enjoy hiking and I hiked Mount Fuji both last summer in 2018, and in the fall of 2017. It was amazing and challenging. Likewise, the fellowship experience is wonderful, but it has also been hard at times. When I was hiking Mount Fuji, I met so many great people who walked with me along the way. And at ICU, staff, fellows, and other students have inspired me and supported me to keep going, despite challenges. Even though some days and nights have been hard, when I look back I remember most of the good parts. The pain fades and what has remained is the beautiful scenery.

What is Ad Pacem?

Ad Pacem is a student association at ICU. We create a bi-annual online journal on peace topics, publish a blog, and encourage students throughout ICU to work within the community towards peace through organized events. Everything is student-run and initiated by students.

The idea for Ad Pacem came from a few places. Other Class of XVI fellows, Elisabeth Oliveira da Costa, Natasha Venables, and Lorena Rodríguez, in 2017 and 2018 planned spaces where people would talk about their area of expertise or interest and others would bring their lunch and listen and engage with the topic. The idea for Ad Pacem came from this and from discussions around how we could create interactive sessions for students to engage. Fellows also wanted to create a supportive academic community focused on sharing peace research across disciplines, which is where the online journal came about.

In the future, the hope is that the Ad Pacem can create a kit that will help other students  launch this program in schools. We want teachers around the world to feel inspired and host their own Ad Pacem groups. The kit will include branding, as well as scripts on hosting discussions and events. Check out www.adpacem.co in the coming months and sign up for our email list to receive updates on the resources we begin to offer.

Ad Pacem meeting (credit: Kalika Kastein)

What was your Applied Fieldwork Experience (AFE) like?

I wanted to intern with an international organisation and so my AFE preparation was actually quite stressful. My AFE had two components, I applied for the Duke Humanitarian Action Programme and took part in their summer course. I also received an internship with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in Hiroshima. I had met with members of the organisation during the Hiroshima field trip the Rotary Peace Center in Japan plans every year in my first year as a fellow. I am still working with UNITAR Hiroshima now in the communications department, so it worked out really well.

With the UNITAR South Sudan Fellowship Programme visiting the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (credit: Kalika Kastein)

What advice would you give a future fellow approaching their AFE?

The best advice I could give someone else planning their AFE would be to start planning early as a majority of UN internships, or other positions at international organizations, are made before March each year. Also, I was able to tap into a great network on campus by asking professors for suggestions on where to start.

With Duke Geneva Program in front of the International Red Cross Museum in Geneva (credit: Kalika Kastein)

What is next for you after graduation?

Next up is New Zealand, hopefully to complete a PhD in Peace Studies, with a focus on peace education. My long term goal is to get my PhD, and then go back to Hawai’i and get back into the classroom. I would love to be a professor in the long term, as I still want to work with young people and continue developing my teaching practice.

If you could offer a single piece of advice to aspiring fellows, what would that be?

Perseverance.

If you want to do something, like the fellowship, don’t let that goal escape you. Keep making change in your community. Even if your role doesn’t feel like it is very big, keep working on ways to be a part of the peace process at the grassroots level in your community as that experience will continue to make a difference and prepare you for opportunities like the fellowship.

United Nations Palais de Nations in Geneva with the Duke Geneva Program (credit: Kalika Kastein)

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Timi Tralagba says:

    Great read. Always educative to hear the experiences of current and past Rotary Peace fellows. It’s comforting to know we have this many people across the world spreading peace.

    1. Thanks Timi – it really is! There are so many committed individuals working towards peace. It’s wonderful to see.

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