Nicole Johnson

International Experience Country:
South Africa
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

University of Pittsburgh | Greensburg

Heinz Programming Area:
Children, Youth, and Families
International Experience Summary:

Nichole Johnson spent five weeks in South Africa taking classes at Stellenbosch University. She was able to learn more about South African politics, literature and film through three classes: Introduction to South African Politics, Challenges to Democratic Consolidation, and Perfectly Imperfect: Negotiating Identity in Film and Literature. She was able to gain a better understanding of the long lasting effects of Apartheid on modern South Africa by having conversations with the "born-free" generation. These are South Africans born after 1994. Through conversations with her professors and fellow South African student Nichole was able to learn about life all over South Africa, not just in the We Cape. She felt fully immersed in the culture; she lived in a dorm at Stellenbosch University and spent endless hours exploring the town, eating at locally owned restaurants, and shopping at the Route 44 Market. Nichole was also able to travel to Cape Town on two occasions. There, she was able to have a discussion with a woman who worked for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. While in Cape Town, she was able to stand on top of Table Mountain and visit Robb Island.

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title:  Knocking Down Walls: Campus Immigration - What it is and what you need to know!

The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg’s CEE was titled “Knocking Down Walls: Campus Immigration – What It Is and What You Need to Know!”.  It consisted of a short presentation followed by a Panel/Roundtable Discussion. We began our presentation by first laying some group rules. We knew that immigration could be a sensitive topic and we wanted to make sure we would be generating healthy and respectful conversation. After these ground rules were discussed, we asked the audience to write down on a Post-It note what immigration meant to them. We received variety of answers including words such of opportunity, new experiences, and language barriers. We then defined what a campus immigrant was: any transfer or international study who was studying at a university for at least one semester. Under this definition, my cohort and I were all campus immigrants during our time studying abroad. We each briefly described our experiences as a campus immigrant. Which was unique because we went to very different places around the world including South Africa, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Thailand. After sharing our insight, we asked the audience members to write down how they saw campus immigration as a local issue. Again, we received great responses with some overlap (people, again, discussed the issue of language). Once our presentation was completed, we invited our five panelists to the front of the room. Each one had a unique reason for being asked to participate; one was a professor who immigrated from Chile, another was a professor who moved here from a more diverse community, another was a transfer student, one was the academic advisor to all of Pitt-Greensburg’s international students, and, finally, one was a visiting professor from China. They led an enlightening conversation with our audience about what it means to be a campus immigrant, which issues they might face, and what we can do to help them integrate into student life more easily. When we finally called the conversation to an end, we invited everyone to write down on another Post-It what they were going to do to make a difference on campus for campus immigrants. We then invited them to stick their Post-It’s on a poster board, which is being displayed on campus. We hope that by putting these goals out for others to see, we can encourage students to step outside of their comfort zone and make a difference on campus.