Chelsea Sundy

Bio Summary
Cohort Year: 
Home Institution: 
University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg
Heinz Programming Area: 
Children, youth, and Families
Study Abroad Country: 
International Experience

Chelsea spent seven weeks of her summer studying in Thailand. At Chiang Mai University, she took three courses. Through readings and lectures in her Cultural Foundations of Thai Society class, she was able to see how the monarchy, traditional values, and tourism affect the structure of today’s Thai society. Chelsea continued to see how Thai society worked by visiting markets and temples and seeing how the people interacted. During a weekend homestay that this course provided, Chelsea got an even closer look at Thais’ home life. She noticed that social activity with neighbors, cleanliness, and food are huge components of the culture. Chelsea also discovered that Thais have very social lives, but often hide negative feelings in order to keep harmony amongst society. Another course Chelsea took was Introduction to Thai language. When going out, Chelsea would practice her Thai with the locals. Eventually, she was able to order food, bargain for lower prices, and have basic conversation with Thai sellers. Public Health in Southeast Asia was the final course that Chelsea participated in. Her interest with this course was to look at the structure of Thailand’s health system and see what type of programing was available to aid poor families. During a week-long excursion to Northeastern Thailand, Chelsea was able to look at community health development programs that were introduced to poor villages. By introducing integrating farming methods and educating families on the health risks of certain foods, the programs were able to help the villages. Though these programs did not increase the villagers’ incomes, the villagers’ overall health improved because they were aware of dangerous foods and had more diverse resources provided by their farms. During her free time, Chelsea would spend time trying new foods or going to markets with Thai and American students she had befriended, which gave her more self-confidence in her social skills. However, Chelsea also took time by herself to explore and reflect, giving her the courage and independence she hoped to have found during her international experience.

Community Engagement Experience

The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg’s CEE, America, America, What Do We See? Perceptions and Prejudices Here and Abroad was an event that addressed perceptions and prejudices that the United States has of other countries and also how other countries perceive the United States. The presenters shared the perceptions they have of their study abroad country, but then they also shared their international experiences and how their perceptions changed.  The event also addressed different social institutions, such as entertainment media, social media, education, and news and how these institutions shape perceptions of different groups within the United States. For example, the effect entertainment media has on the perception of women in the United States was examined. It was addressed that women seem to be continually portrayed as needing to be beautiful and needing a man or if they are in a leadership position, they are perceived as the mean boss nobody likes. This portrayal of women in movies could be a cause of the gender gaps in work environments. Before proceeding to a panel discussion, the presenters looked at perceptions that face the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg’s campus community, such as different major biases and the branch campus bias. The panel of diverse professors and university faculty members then shared their international experiences and experiences with perceptions and prejudices. This then lead to a conversation with the people in attendance, who got a chance to ask the panel and presenters questions or share their own experiences. The event’s purpose was not to stop creating perceptions since it was recognized that it is in human nature to categorize people and we often do it without realizing it. The purpose of the event was for the people in attendance to recognize the perceptions and prejudices they carry, so that they do not act upon them and become open to people and cultures that are different from their own. America, America, What Do We See? Perceptions and Prejudices Here and Abroad was an impactful event that started an important conversation on perceptions and prejudices that effect the United States both globally and locally. 

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