Becoming a Messenger of Peace

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December grad Monika Metro considers the Peace Corps after studying abroad in Cambodia

University News | December 4, 2019

By Laynee H. Timlin

Monika Metro ’19 is among the 55 Virginia Wesleyan students anticipated to complete degree requirements this month. Metro, a senior Biology major who minored in Environmental Studies, is from Monroe, Connecticut. She says that she was originally attracted to Virginia Wesleyan because of the soccer program, as she had always dreamed of being a college athlete.

“The small, close-knit community was also something I felt I needed in a college, in addition to the small class sizes and the ability for me to connect with my professors,” said Metro. “The location and the beach were an added bonus that solidified my decision to attend VWU.”

As she prepares to celebrate the completion of her degree requirements on Sunday, December 8, at the December Graduates' Recognition Ceremony, Metro is planning for her next chapter. She’s applying for a position in the Peace Corps, specifically to a program in the Philippines that involves coastal resource management and community outreach.

In reflecting on her undergraduate experiences and what led her to this path, she credits studying abroad and having the opportunity to live in a different country for a semester as tops on her list.

“I was ecstatic that Virginia Wesleyan was able to provide me support with studying abroad through the Global Scholars Program. I found just the program to suit my needs in The School for Field Studies.”

This educational non-profit organization dedicated to environmental research and stewardship provided Metro with an ideal opportunity to fulfill her passion for creating a more sustainable future by studying abroad in a field-based learning and research setting. She decided on a program in Cambodia, which focused on climate change, ethics and conservation.

Metro described her experiences in Cambodia as engaging, interdisciplinary, culturally emerging, emotional and eye opening!

She says her trip to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was particularly life-changing. This site, a former secondary school that was used as a security prison by the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, was an interrogation and detention center in which thousands of innocent Khmer citizens were tortured and exterminated.

“Walking into these buildings, listening to the stories, and seeing pictures and objects from that time period was devastating and heartbreaking,” explained Metro. “Learning about this moved me and changed me in ways I never thought were possible. I held this site and this genocide very close to my heart, and as I continued to explore the country’s environment and its people, I learned more and more about this time period and what it did to the people. The overall memorial preserves this tragic period during the country's history with an aim to encourage visitors to be messengers of peace.”

One of the things Metro says she most enjoyed while being in Cambodia was engaging with the community. She interviewed many locals, monks, commune chiefs, directors of non-governmental organizations and the Khmer people. Each interview shed light on a new part of the Cambodian lifestyle and culture.

Most of her experience was in Siem Reap at the Center for Conservation and Development Studies where she had opportunities to explore the Angkor Wat complex, travel to a floating village on the Tonle Sap, visit Phnom Kulen National Park to explore wetlands, enjoy lotus fields outside the city center, and experience the city’s various markets, stores, and restaurants. She also had the chance to travel to Vietnam.

Metro shared her Cambodian experience with the Virginia Wesleyan community in a blog about her adventures-- from her homestay on the Mekong River and learning about Asian elephants in Mondulkiri Providence, to staying in a treehouse in a lovely ecotourism site called Betreed and conducting a citizen science study on the local Flying Fox bat population in the Royal Palace Gardens and learning about “black gold.”

The student scientist also presented to groups on campus when she returned. Most recently, she set up a display complete with a poster of her research project, bowls of dried mango and mango sticky rice and photos depicting her experiences at the Study Away Fair this fall.

Metro looks forward to returning to campus in the spring to participate in VWU’s formal commencement ceremony on May 16.


Virginia Wesleyan University's annual Commencement Ceremonies bring the University community together to recognize and celebrate graduating students, like Metro, and to mark the achievement of degrees. The December Graduates' Recognition Ceremony and Reception celebrates those scheduled to graduate at the end of the fall semester as well as those who reached the milestone in August. The 2019 ceremony will be held on Sunday, December 8, at 11:00 a.m. in the Brock Theatre of the Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center. Travis Malone, Dean of the Susan S. Goode School of Arts and Humanities and Professor of Theatre will serve as the keynote speaker for the event. The December Graduates' Recognition Ceremony will be livestreamed on the VWU Digital Broadcasting Network and the Virginia Wesleyan University Facebook page. A reception for graduates, family and friends will take place immediately following the ceremony in the Watts Lobby of the Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center.