eJournal USA - July 1, 2007
Meeting People, Sharing Ideas Online
Signing up with an online community has sent a young Indian woman on some far-flung journeys.
When I was 16, in 1998, I found myself on an airplane for the very first time, leaving my native India to travel to Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States for an event being sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
I didn't know it then, but looking back on it now, I realize the opportunity to be a part of that MIT Junior Summit changed my life and set me on a course to discover more about information technology, online communities, and international travel.
The Junior Summit brought together 100 young people from 54 countries to discuss how technology might solve the problems of the world's children. We spent six months discussing these issues in an online community of our own, and that was my first experience getting to know people and share ideas over the Internet.
After the Junior Summit, I joined the online community created by TakingITGlobal (TIG), which was a very new, exciting, different place from the world I knew. I met amazing people online who inspired me to make a difference in my community. I realized that there was a lot more in life than just studying and graduating from school. Granted, we were young idealists trying to work on sometimes improbable projects, but in our own small way we did make a difference in our community.
TIG was — and remains — a far-flung community, and bringing it together took some doing. I distinctly remember waking up at 2 a.m. for a board meeting held on Instant Messenger. Somebody has to be up in the middle of the night when people across all the world's time zones try to set a meeting.
I remember crying and being depressed for days when one of our dear projects failed. I remember how delighted I was when I met some of my online friends for the first time in my life. I remember the inspiration I felt seeing how my friends could make a difference in their communities, and realizing I could, too.
Members of TIG work together online for solutions to important world issues such as ending world poverty and hunger, as demonstrated by these young activists in Sydney, Australia. Photo: Michael Myers/OxfamAUS
The online community I created for myself in the past nine years has played an important role in my personal life and shaped my career today. It has helped me to become a better person, to think outside the box, and, most of all, it has inspired me to make a difference in my community. Thanks to this community, I started my master's degree in community arts from Maryland Institute College of Art in June 2007. With this degree, I hope to have a better understanding on how I can use art as a medium for positive change in society. I want to fuse my activism and passion for art to create a unique and challenging career that will satisfy my needs as an artist and also benefit the community.
I am always grateful to have had this opportunity to be a part of the online community, and that I seized this opportunity when it landed on my doorstep.
And I sometimes wonder what life would have been if I had not participated in the Junior Summit, and I am scared to think about it.
Maitreyi is 23 years old. She completed an undergraduate program at Concord University in Athens, West Virginia, in 2006, and has been employed in Washington, D.C., as graphic designer and publications assistant at the General Federation of Women's Clubs.