Elizabeth Schmele

International Experience Country:
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

University of Pittsburgh | Oakland

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

For seven weeks, Elizabeth Schmele spent her summer studying traditional medicine and healthcare practices in Madagascar. She took classes involving the discussion of various herbal remedies, and the way Madagascar’s healthcare system had been developed before, during, and after colonization. In addition to classes, she also had the opportunity to interview several traditional healers and pharmaceutical companies to collect research for a research paper focusing on Traditional Birth Attendants. Much of her interview questions revolved around the economics and education of Madagascar’s healthcare system, where she was able to explore the costs and benefits of the integrated healthcare system. Liz had two homestay families, both an urban and rural. Her urban family, located in Antananarivo, and her rural family, located in Andasibe, helped her study for her Malagasy language classes. When she was not going to lectures, she went on educational excursions to sacred traditional healers’ homes to immerse herself in the culture of Madagascar. On the weekends, Liz spent time with her Malagasy homestay families by playing cards, helping cook meals, and going to church. At the end of her trip, Liz was able to spend time on the coast in Morondava and visit a sacred herbal plant in Tsingy, used for several remedies.  

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: Unveiled: Opening Up the Conversation About Mental Illness

Our CEE, “Unveiled: Opening Up the Conversation About Mental Illness” began with a TedTalk delivered by man who is a comedian who also suffers from depression. This opened up the floor for us to begin the night in destigmatizing mental illness in providing a safe environment for people to open up about their own personal experiences. Following the TedTalk, we had volunteer actors perform live skits of two different scenarios in which we wanted to provide some common signs that people could be suffering from mental illness. The two skits performed were done in two parts – they both had their first scenario, which did not go as well as it could have. After this skit was performed, we asked the audience, “What did you see that could have been improved, to provide a better scenario?” Then, the same scenario was performed, but with a different ending that promoted positive mental health. After the skits, we had a guest speaker from the University of Pittsburgh’s counseling center give a discussion on mental health on a local perspective, as well as a global one. This speaker shared stories from her work internationally in addition to her work in Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. She was able to engage the audience and spark discussion, which then led to our roundtable discussion questions. At each table where approximately 8-10 people were seated, we provided discussion questions regarding mental health that attendees could discuss on a more personal level. During the CEE’s duration, we also provided pizza, cookies, and relaxing activities that consisted of coloring pages and stress-ball making.