Brooke Mead traveled to Prague, Czech Republic through the USAC Prague program from mid-May to mid-June this past summer. In Prague, Brooke studied Alternative Culture, Literature, Lifestyles, and Music, focusing on the underground art and music that came out of the soviet regime. Through keeping a daily journal and blog, Brooke learned not only about the history behind avant-garde, minimalist, and punk art movements, but also about how she could use those same art styles to spread a message of feminist equality and body image positivity in a country with very few female artists. Although she entered the Czech Republic barely knowing the Czech alphabet, thanks to her Introduction to Czech Language class Brooke was able to converse with the USAC staff, order at a restaurant or coffee shop, and hold basic small-talk conversations in Czech by the end of her program. Shocked by how many of her classmates wanted to stay in their comfort zones and lean towards more familiar experiences, Brooke strove to make her own path in Prague, exploring underground concert venues, legal graffiti walls, and independently owned Czech restaurants. She left this experience feeling more confident in herself and in her ability to go off on her own to ensure she gets what she wants out of any experience. By the end of the program, Brooke completed her first self-published booklet (or "zine" as they're known in the underground music scene) entitled the "Modern Girl Manifesto," which encourages women to be strong in who they are and what they create, despite who society tells them to be.
CEE Title: Crossing Borderlines
We had three components to our workshop: “Identity & Saliency Pie,” “IntersectionAllergy,” and “Comfort Zones.”
“Identity & Saliency Pie” focused on the different aspects of our identities that we are most in touch with at different times. Participants received a blank circle and were instructed to divide their “pies” into different sections illustrating the different parts of their identities (sexual orientation, race, class, immigration status, etc.) that they were most aware of in that moment.
After becoming aware of their different identities, we moved into “IntersectionAllergy,” a simulation that focused on limitations. Each participant received a food allergy and a menu, and was given the task of ordering a full, three-course meal without asking for alterations. After facing this particularly difficult challenge, we added a new component. Instead of food allergies, participants had life allergies. For example, participants could be allergic to stairs, public transportation, free time, phones, etc. In groups of three, they were tasked with planning an entire day’s worth of activities in Philadelphia. Participants remarked on how difficult it was to perform seemingly simple tasks with different disadvantages.
Lastly, we pushed the borders of our comfort zones by dividing the room into three sections: the comfort zone (where participants stood if they would absolutely, no question, do something), the learning edge (where participants stood if they would be uncomfortable doing something, but would be willing to try), and the danger zone (where participants stood if they were unwilling to try something at all). Here, we incorporated our own international and domestic experiences, using scenarios such as “I would feel comfortable…
Walking alone on Temple’s campus, in North Philadelphia, and in a non-English speaking country
Asking a stranger for directions in Philadelphia and in a non-English speaking country
Challenging a professor whose beliefs conflict with your own
Going to a religious service at a catholic church, a mosque, a synagogue
Talking to parents about being in an interracial relationship
Asking parents to fund a study abroad experience
and more. Participants realized that depending on the setting, each scenario they faced could be different and different parts of their identity could manifest differently.