As a member of the Vira I. Heinz Program for Women in Global Leadership, Amanda traveled to Rome, Italy for four weeks, studying at Richmond University. In Rome, Amanda successfully completed courses in ancient Roman history, Italian art history, and cross-cultural psychology. Through her psychology class, she had the opportunity to research the Italian view on mental health and treatment plans for substance abuse. By speaking to a psychoanalyst, Amanda enhanced her understanding of the use of therapy as a potential treatment. Based on her knowledge gained and extensive literature reviews, Amanda conducted research comparing Italy and the United States in regard to approaches of drug treatment plans for opioid abuse. Her research revealed a similar approach across these cultures – the use of medication-assisted therapy. She hopes to utilize the knowledge gained in this research as she works towards her future goal of becoming a psychiatrist as she treats patients who may have substance abuse disorders.
Amanda was also able to study the history of those living in Rome from the mythological tale of its beginning in 753 BCE through the Roman Empire until Constantine’s rule ending in 337 AD. She then compared this to the very different history of cities such as Florence and Venice through weekend excursions. Speaking to historians and archaeologists along the way and visiting the ancient ruins of Pompeii, this culminated into research exploring the everyday life of the people of Pompeii, one of the most significant proofs of Roman civilization, finding many similarities to life today. In her free time, Amanda took the opportunity to explore modern Italian culture by attending the opera at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, exploring the beaches of Capri, paddle boarding across Lake Bracciano, hiking Mount Vesuvius, and eating gelato throughout Italy.
CEE Title: Connecting Across Cultures
Our CEE was titled “Connecting Across Cultures,” rooted in commonalities and shared learning experienced through the international experiences of our cohort. We strove to create a space for dialogue surrounding how the fears one might encounter going abroad are often outweighed by the cross-cultural similarities. Experiencing different cultures does not have to be a scary experience, and our cohort aimed to convey that students might be surprised to find that there are not that many differences across cultures in the first place, whether it’s through interactions with others, similar geography, or how you observe people act in their own communities. Most importantly, we aimed to convey human togetherness as opposed to otherness and the innate tendency to view others as different from ourselves. To share this message with our W&J campus community, our CEE held a panel of six faculty and staff who are all women and have international experience, whether that is being born in the United States and traveling abroad or being born in the United States and immigrating here. Our team facilitated a targeted discussion of diverse panelists as they brought to life their own stories of overcoming challenges abroad, the benefits of developing intercultural competence, and made international education seem accessible to anyone. Following these questions, we facilitated round table discussions in which students and the panel were separated into groups with guided topics. This allowed us to assess what the students in attendance learned from the panel. We hoped that students would take away that traveling does not need to be an intimidating or overwhelming experience, and most of all, that we are all more similar than we are different.
While my cohort member and I both hold various leadership positions in other clubs and extracurricular activities, the planning of our CEE opened our eyes to a new domain of leadership in which an initial idea developed over conversations of our own international experience blossomed into a professional campus event. Above all, our CEE was a rewarding experience that instilled invaluable leadership and communication skills. Following the CEE, attendees expressed that they enjoyed hearing the speakers’ stories, felt it was directed well, and will utilize what they learned in their own potential study abroad experiences while are faculty and staff panel were interested in meeting together again to further discuss their experiences, truly creating a community from the event.