As a Vira Heinz Scholarship recipient, Janelle spent eleven weeks studying the Spanish language, Cultural Photography and Ecological Photography at Veritas University in San Jose, Costa Rica. Through her classes, Janelle had the opportunity to see first-hand what it is like to be a Costa Rican citizen and how preserving the environment is one of Costa Rica’s largest initiatives as a country. These experiences gave her the opportunity to build personal relationships with Costa Rican people or Ticas/-os as they call themselves and implement some aspects of Costa Rican culture into her own life. Janelle stayed with a host family while in Costa Rica where she enhanced her understanding of the Spanish language and Costa Rican culture through her interactions at home as well as in the classroom. In her free time, Janelle took advantage of the public transportation system in Costa Rica to explore the country’s vast landscapes from the city to the countryside to the beach. Through her traveling, she could see the diversity the country has to offer and document it through photographs.
CEE Title: The American Abroad: Social Identity and Positionality in a Global and Domestic Environment
Our CEE is titled The American Abroad: Social Identity and Positionality in a Global and Domestic Environment. We set out to change the discussion of discourse that surrounds pre-departure study abroad orientations that focus on identity, communication and reactions while abroad and domestically, and the role of your nationality in a global space. In the pre-departure retreat we discussed what the “Ugly American” is and how being from the United States you should try to move away from the stereotypes that surround United States citizens in other countries. With our CEE we set out to create some clarification for the idea of separating yourself from your nationality in another country because it is not a completely achievable thing to do. One’s nationality is a part of who they are, it is engrained into one’s being and therefore cannot be completely separated from one’s being. As an example, we used the analogy of removing your American hat for the hat of whatever country you are visiting. Positionality influences our view of the world around us and our interaction within our environments domestically and abroad. Building upon that idea, we discussed how to approach creating dialogues around sensitive topics (racism, homophobia, ableism, etc.) that may be deemed appropriate to speak about in one’s home culture but not in the one they are visiting. This is a tricky thing to do because as a guest in another country one has to evaluate what their role is within their society. To ensure that everyone was included in our CEE we also opened up the discussion for people who have never been abroad, and we discussed how their identity plays a role in the way they interact with others who may be acting in discriminatory ways within their own communities’. This discussion was important for people who have been abroad as well because it allowed for some dissection of discrimination in relation to one’s identity in the spaces they reside in frequently. Overall, our CEE left attendees more aware of how their identity affects their experiences surrounding different kinds of discrimination within global and domestic spaces. We wanted to let our attendees know that within global spaces they should be aware of their identity and how that will have an effect on their experiences abroad but they should not be afraid to be themselves.