As a recipient of the Vira I. Heinz scholarship, Jessica spent four weeks in Sligo, Ireland. There, she was able to work with individuals with special needs on a daily basis in the Resource Center as well as experience the Irish culture that surrounded her. Tasked with interacting and managing several different individuals with varying levels of functioning, she was able to build bonds with the service users and the employees at the center. As a psychology major, Jessica wanted to utilize this opportunity to better understand another culture’s approach to mental illness, individualized care for the population she worked with, and over-all willingness to discuss mental health. So, she participated in a training work-shop that allowed her to interact with a large group of nurses, counselors, and special needs workers. The discussions and activities that occurred there enlightened her as to how the Irish approached such topics, how they train that population of workers, and how they are constantly striving for improvement within their systems. Jessica also visited many historical sites during her stay such as W.B Yeats’ grave, Queen Maeve’s grave on the top of Knocknarea, and Croagh Patrick, the mountain Saint Patrick climbed and fasted for forty days. She also visited several different castles and had the chance to explore ruins that are scattered over the entire country. These experiences allowed her to push herself physically, mentally, and emotionally, as she had never done such things back home. They made her feel powerful for accomplishing them and brought her closer to the Irish people who visit such important monuments multiple times in their lives. With that empowerment, she actively sought out conversations that challenged her beliefs and continued to try and push her boundaries as she explored the country and herself. Though the entire experience has come to an end, her love for understanding others has deepened and she continues to push herself to broaden her perspective.
CEE Title: Diversity ≠ Inclusion: Disrupting Oppressive Structures
For Carlow’s CEE, we touched on the topics of diversity and inclusion. Taking our global experiences and the feelings that we had during our time abroad, we worked to create a cultural activity that would properly demonstrate what we were feeling to a group of other individuals. To do this, we decided to set up tables to represent four countries: Ireland, Czech, United States, and a made-up country. All of the tables were then given the topic of art and each person was designated an opinion. They were either for art, against art, or had no true opinion about it. Based on these pre-determined opinions, the individuals had to discuss the topic with the members in their country. Each country was governed by a different set of rules. In Ireland, where it felt as if everyone had a similar ethnic background, people all had the same opinion and must talk to one another for the allotted time. In Czech, where Amari felt as if she was the only diversity, everyone was against art except for one individual. This single person had to attempt to talk to the majority group, but the majority group was instructed to ignore the individual. In the United States, where Amari and I felt that people were diverse but not inclusive, there were three groups. The majority group could not talk to the minorities while the two minority groups were instructed to interact with everyone. Finally, the last country was our made-up one. This country had all three of the opinions but they were all allowed to interact with one another. After experiences the activity for the allotted time, Amari and I facilitated a discussion around why diversity and inclusion are so important and on solutions to making it achievable in our own lives.