Nadine spent six weeks in the Kansai region of Japan, studying Japanese history and culture and how they play into the business practices of Japanese companies. During her time overseas, Nadine visited several historical sites, such as the Toudai-ji Temple in Nara, where she was able to learn more about Shinto and Buddhism and how they are incorporated in Japanese culture, and about the Sika deer, which are considered sacred in association to one of the Shinto gods. While studying at Konan University, a private university in Kobe, Nadine befriended Japanese students and worked to become conversationally fluent in Japanese, focusing on the Kansai-ben dialect. To this end, she spent a weekend staying with the family of a volunteer university student. In addition to her language and culture class, Nadine also took a marketing class to study how Japanese culture played into different business practices. One project was to give a presentation on how Ozeki, a sake company, could increase their brand’s image and influence domestically and globally. On her days off, Nadine explored the Kansai region, leveraging Japan’s excellent transportation system to travel to different cultural sites, such as Ikuta Shrine and the Fushimi Inari Shrine, both to appreciate the sites and to think about how they play into their communities, historically and economically.
CEE Title: (Un)Conscoiusly (Un)Comfortable
For our CEE, instead of looking at the issues that we saw on Pitt’s campus, our team wanted to focus on what we don’t see in our community. As we shared our experiences abroad, we found that when others asked about certain topics (e.g. race, religion, gender, etc.), we had no frame of reference for how the community at large felt about those issues. Refocusing on American culture, we also noted that there were topics of debate that were avoided, be it politics, religion, mental health or more controversial issues, like gun rights and abortion. We decided that just because an issue was inflammatory did not mean that it should be avoided in discussion. Our goal was to create an environment where members of our community could discuss these types of issues in a safe, non-judgmental space and could express their opinions on these topics, both to inform others and to learn themselves. The engagement portion of our event was in a roundtable format. As guests entered the room, we handed them a survey that asked them to pick the top three topics that they were more uncomfortable talking about. We introduced ourselves and the Vira I Heinz program, then launched into our testimonies about our experiences abroad and what we saw were issues that were not discussed. Once we had each given our testimony, we brought it back to American culture and the issues that we do not tend to talk about in everyday conversations. Then we had the audience break up into three groups to have conversations surrounding questions about one of the topics on the survey. There were three topics we talked about, racism, mental health, and sexuality, sexual identity and gender – each topic had two questions associated with it. After each round, we had participant switch groups so that they were with entirely new people. Once all the topics were discussed, we had a cool down session where we asked them how the breakout sessions were, what they talked about, and if it got easier to talk about these topics in this kind of setting.