For the summer of 2019, Shaniece had the opportunity to study abroad after receiving the Vira I. Heinz Global Women's Leadership Program Scholarship. Shaniece chose to live in Buenos Aires, Argentina for an eight-week Intensive Spanish-Language Program through the provider CIEE. Shaniece took three courses comprised of Oral Communication, Intermediate Language, and Reading and Writing Workshop. These courses focused on oral presentations and occasional written assignments spoken and written solely in Spanish, allowing her to become more comfortable learning to speak the language. Shaniece completely immersed herself in the culture of Argentina by living with a host family. Although her host family did not know much English, it granted her an opportunity to learn Spanish, as well as to teach them English. It was a cultural exchange that helped her evolve intellectually, and eventually she became comfortable speaking Spanish around her household; as well as learning about economic and political issues that Argentina was currently facing such as unemployment, inflation, and the ongoing presidential election.
In regards to extra curricular activities, Shaniece often navigated around the city with her fellow classmates. She often would find herself walking into a street fair, finding a free art museum or gallery, and experimenting with different types of food. There were certain aspects that were outside of her comfort zone, such as having to cope with people staring at her due to her ethnicity, or trying llama. Ultimately, she encountered every experience with optimism. In order to become more associated with the language, she would often speak it while walking around the city, and visiting different stores and restaurants. She gained a deeper perspective on the European roots that have been embedded in the culture of Argentina through architecture, clothing, and cuisine. She also had chances to visit places like the Palacio Barolo, where she was able to climb to the highest peak that showed the entire city of Buenos Aires, and walked through the neighborhood of La Boca; seeing beautiful murals representing their intense love for soccer. She also spent a weekend tour in the province of Jujuy during her eight-week experience, and even managed to learn different types of dances like the tango and Chacarera. Ultimately, this trip was an experience that has shaped her as both an independent woman and student, giving her a stronger commitment to pursue her passion in writing.
CEE Title: Breaking Racial Stereotypes Around the World
Our chosen topic for the CEE based on each of our international experiences was global stereotypes that impact international experiences for African-Americans, as well as emphasizing the lack of representation for people of color in different countries. The purpose of our CEE was to express the importance of representation in order to advocate debunking stereotypes held about African-Americans in different countries, as well as promoting more productive conversations in multi-cultural interactions. In our opening icebreaker activity, we wrote different groups of people out on individual flashcards: ranging from race, ethnicity, and religion. We then allowed our attendees to randomly choose a card, and write down three characteristics, or stereotypes, that they commonly hear that group being associated with. We then chose three volunteers to share what card they picked, and to also explain the characteristics that they attached with the identity of that group. We created this activity to bring attention to the stereotypes that we hold against others, to recognize the fact that stereotyping is a global issue: it does not solely occur in the UNited States, and often people do not recognize that they are doing it. We promoted that when encountering an international experience, it is important to not enter an interaction with stereotypes about people from that particular place, because it could hinder healthy conversations. Our group members then each shared a stereotype that they chose, and explained why it had been chosen. We then incorporated brief moments in our experiences that gave inspiration and validity to our topic of choice. At the end, we opened a discussion into the experiences of our audience, using the topic of stereotypes and “awkward” encounters that they had due to false expectations that they had about their visiting country, and vice versa. The CEE concluded with reiterating the purpose and message that we wanted to send, and with a call to action for the audience to take on new experiences by being open to experiencing gaining a more global perspective, instead of remaining stagnant with American expectations.