Global Citizenship & Me – My DiA Journey by Sarah Burns

Sarah BurnsName: Sarah Burns

Placement: Seva Mandir

Year: 2010

What is your favourite moment from interning with one of DiA’s placement partners?

I couldn’t chose just one moment. I had so many amazing opportunities and experiences during my placement, both professional and personal.

What skills and experience did you develop through interning with DiA one of DiA’s placement partners?

Sarah Burns 2I think the main group of skills I developed, which were also the most transferable, centered around working independently, using my initiative and taking responsibility for the work being done. As an intern I was given pieces of work which no one else in the team were working on so it really taught me the importance of taking ownership of a piece of work and having the confidence to take the necessary steps to drive the work forward.

Throwing yourself into a new country, culture and environment and having to build working relationships across cultural and language barriers is an incredibly challenging and rewarding experience. At the end of my placement I felt I had the confidence in myself to tackle any new work situation. Coming back to the UK and joining the management committee really cemented those skills. It gave me the opportunity to use them and take the lead in shaping the charity during each committee year.

 What did you do once you returned to the UK?

Immediately after my placement in India with DiA I travelled to Nepal to complete another Internship. On my return to the UK I began applying for jobs and joined the DiA management committee. I was on the committee for three years. I joined in 2011 as Secretary and became Chair in 2012 for two years.

How did you time involved with DiA help shape your understanding of global citizenship?

Sarah Burns 3I applied to DiA because I felt their focus on global citizenship correlated with my own views. So I would say that I had a good understanding of global citizenship on joining and this was developed during the UK and India orientation days. But what my experience through DiA did do was provide me with real life situations where I was able to reflect on my own connections with people all over the world. One of my most vivid encounters was during my first week in India when I turned a corner and saw clothes from the UK high street being sold on market stores. This immediately made me question the clothes I buy and how and where they are produced, and how the things I buy can affect communities on the other side of the world.

Has this shaped your subsequent professional (or further voluntary) experiences and/or your personal outlook?

I have no doubt that the skills and experience I gained through DiA had a positive effect on my employability when I returned to the UK. Not only has it allowed me to develop important skills, it has given me great examples of these skills and knowledge to use in applications and interviews. In my roles it has allowed me to approach tasks with flexibility and confidence. Even today, 5 years on from my placement I reflect on how it has shaped my skills and ability to respond to challenging situations.

Personally, it has had a huge impact on my views and behavior. My experiences overseas have fed into the decisions I make about how I live my life, from the things I purchase to the causes I support. I also now have an amazing network of friends and contacts from my time in India and as a member of the committee in the UK. 

What are you doing now?

I currently work for Resource Futures, an independent environmental consultancy business.

What advice would you give to people thinking about applying to the DiA India Internship Placement Scheme?

I would encourage interns to get involved with any extra activities within their host organization or community. It’s a great way to learn more about different projects/departments to your own, meet other volunteers and staff members and generally feel more involved with the organisation. Take every opportunity to ask questions and talk to other volunteers and interns about their roles.


Join Development in Action and Tenteleni for the Global Citizenship Forum 2015: ‘At home and overseas: The impact of young volunteers’. An interactive, audience-led discussion and Q&A on the contribution of young volunteers to development.

Tuesday 17th November, 6pm at Rise London, 69-89 Mile End Rd, London E1 4TT.  More information, including that of guest speakers available at

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.


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