As a Vira Heinz scholarship recipient, Bri spent 5 weeks in Stellenbosch, South Africa where she studied at Stellenbosch University, the oldest in the country. In Stellenbosch, Bri’s classes focused on South African political history, art and media during and after apartheid, and the reflection of political identities and tensions in South African film and literature. As a Creative Writing student, Bri quickly became fascinated with the power of storytelling, and the idea of many histories existing at once; since returning to Pittsburgh, she continues to question, “Whose history is being shown, whose stories are being told, and who’s telling them?” Bri’s classes took her to the Stellenbosch University and SMAC art galleries, where she was introduced to Ingrid Winterbach’s showcase, “Relevant / Irrelevant.” Bri found herself connecting to Ingrid’s art, and her desire to undermine the “tasteful, beautiful, and harmonious.” Bri writes the body, both bruised and hungry; the many voices throughout her work aren’t afraid to speak their truths, even when they’re painful and ugly. Bri also attended a POETRY FOR PEACE reading while in Stellenbosch, hosted by InZync, a South African poetry project. Bri listened to young South African poets read their work about peace, and their experiences with racism and language. The reading left Bri feeling inspired to take risks, and to continue writing about the things that are hard to say, the darkest parts of the human experience. Bri also took a trip to Robben Island, where she was able to see places she learned about in class, like the cell where Nelson Mandela spent 17 years of his life as a political prisoner, pushing her deeper into the world of resistance, and poetry as a political act. Bri, while staying at the Huis Visser residence hall in Stellenbosch, and traveling between the Eastern and Western Capes of South Africa, allowed herself to feel vulnerable by sharing her poetry with Stellenbosch University students, singing karaoke, pushing herself physically, and eating interesting food, like Warthog, Kudu, and Alligator kebobs.
CEE Title: You See What You Say: Exploring Language Internationally
“You See What You Say: Exploring Language Internationally” combined cultural workshop and interactive dance elements in order to create an energetic environment in which we could share with others our diverse study abroad experiences. Different colored post-it notes separated our audience into four groups. Four 15 minute increments allowed everyone time to rotate between tables, stopping to hear about how we interacted with language while studying in our host countries—South Africa, Ghana, India, and Ireland. The food we served, including Irish Soda Bread and West African Jollof Rice, connected to our international experiences. Our introductions and welcome were language-driven as well, including reading parts of poems written by South African and Indian writers, speaking in Twi—the most-widely spoken language in Ghana—and sign language. Each rotation, we all heard new questions about life internationally, mostly focusing on political systems, racism, rape culture, and how we navigated our American identities abroad. The tables also served as placeholders for our decorations and items either bought or collected by us while abroad, adding an interesting visual element to the event. We had a slideshow playing switching between pictures of us abroad, and we created a colorful and cultural musical playlist to add to the uplifting energy in the room. Pitt Nrityamala, the University of Pittsburgh’s Indian Classical Dance Team, performed and served as dance instructors, encouraging everyone in attendance to learn something new, and push themselves beyond their comfort zones. Our main goal was to tackle issues of otherness on Carlow University’s campus and in the Pittsburgh community by bridging cultures through the art of dance. We also sought to encourage students to study abroad, and embrace vulnerability. By providing for our audience members numerous opportunities to ask questions and explore feelings of discomfort, we succeeded in promoting cultural competency and open-mindedness. “You See What You Say: Exploring Language Internationally” was an event centered around our different experiences with language while abroad, meant to inform those in attendance about language and life abroad.