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Mia Balansag

My story

"I am Filipino by birth, a resident of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and a global citizen by heart.

My love for my family truly defines me, and it’s my mission to raise my children as next generation problem-solvers. I am also passionate about sustainability and how the environment, society and economy can—and should—come together. My aspiration is to contribute to the community at large by using innovation and creativity to address issues of responsible consumption and production."

Mia Balansag, Philippines


The Abu Dhabi EnviroMom


My professional background is in financial reporting, planning and analysis. I was working in the finance sector and managing a variety of diverse teams before I came to IE University. While it was fulfilling for me at times, at the peak of my professional career I began to question my purpose. I started to wonder, “Is that all there is?”

On top of that, environmental awareness was becoming a significant part of my thinking. By the end of 2017, a key inflection point triggered me to rethink my purpose. I started volunteering with Azraq the following year, helping to campaign for plastic waste elimination. Inspired to convey the importance of sustainability to families like my own, I led the creation of the Abu Dhabi EnviroMoms Facebook Group to promote sustainable living habits to families in the UAE.

In 2019, my road to self-discovery culminated in leaving the corporate position I had held for 12 years. At that point, I set my intention to pursue a learning journey in order to find where else I could make an impact. Understanding that I had a lot to learn, I decided to investigate my options for higher education. I knew that pursuing an international development degree would help me get closer to my objective of tackling global challenges by using systemic and inclusive solutions.

When I began to compare programs, I was also considering other prestigious universities in Europe for my master’s. I soon came across the brochure for the Master in International Development program at IE University. As I read about the program, the  words “become the impulse for change” immediately resonated with my truth.

In addition to that, the program partnership with the United Nations Systems Staff College was a key deciding factor. For me, this stood out from programs at other institutions because it offered the unique opportunity to learn in a way that directly addresses the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Agenda.

The icing on the cake had to be my experience on the immersive IE Weekend at the Madrid campus last March 2019. The warm, welcoming ambience of the campus, the informative masterclass and the diversity of students blew me away. I had found home!

“As I read about the Master in International Development, the words ‘become the impulse for change’ immediately resonated with my truth. The partnership with the United Nations Systems Staff College was also a key deciding factor.”

This incredible diversity is something I really loved about being part of the IE University community. As a global institution, IE attracts a pool of talented cohorts worldwide which cultivates an innovative ecosystem of learners. In addition, learning alongside millennials taught me to approach learning using their lens. I gained perspectives from a variety of models which certainly added a layer to my thinking.

The academic side of the master was challenging, but pursuing a program outside of my comfort zone has only made me feel more comfortable when facing uncertainties. It really pushed me to create opportunities rather than wait for them. As a complement to the academic side of things, I was sure to take advantage of IE University’s vast extracurricular offerings on campus and through the alumni network. My involvement with the Sustainability Taskforce, Student Sustainability Committee, and the Deliveroo Plastic-free Challenge gave me channels to apply my learning in a practical context, where I could offer insights from my program to specific stakeholders.

After IE University, I’m hoping to extend my career break and continue to explore opportunities that are truly aligned with my values. In the short term, I will continue volunteering as a business mentor for Kotokan, an edutech startup offering a Math strategy game for children, which recently won the Southern European Stars 2020 venture capital pitch. My long-term goal would be to work with a grassroots organization to address poverty alleviation in my home country of the Philippines.

If I could, I would relive my IE University and Madrid experience all over again. It was a real game-changer for me. Despite the hardship and challenges that arose from COVID-19, it was all absolutely worth it.