Jessica Pelland

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

University of Pittsburgh | Oakland

Heinz Programming Area:
International Experience Summary:

Jessica Pelland spent four and a half weeks of her summer studying in Stellenbosch, South Africa. She lived in a dormitory with students from all over the world, having the privilege to learn from and make friends with people from South Africa, Kenya, Singapore, The Netherlands, and Germany. Jessica spent her first week learning about South Africa’s political history and had the opportunity to visit Robben Island, the site of the prison where Nelson Mandela and many more political prisoners were held during Apartheid. During her second week, Jessica learned about the rich biodiversity of South Africa’s flora, traveling along the Western Cape to identify and learn about various plants in the Cape Floristic region. Her third week consisted of a philosophy class tackling issues in ethics and science from three different professors at the University of Stellenbosch. Jessica had the privilege of spending her last week in South Africa traveling along the coast and meeting locals and travelers from all over the world. During the weekends, Jessica had the opportunity to travel to local townships, volunteer at a primary school, learn to surf, and meet some of Africa’s most beautiful animals. While abroad, she enjoyed a multitude of food including: springbok, ostrich, smiley (sheep’s head), and South Africa’s amazing chicken pie. She hopes to return to South Africa in the future to assist in wildlife conservation efforts and to learn more about the beautiful Rainbow Nation.

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

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

My CEE was titled "Unveiled: Opening Up The Conversation About Mental Illness." The CEE consisted of four parts: the showing of a Ted Talk about the stigma surrounding mental illness, two skits about how to approach the conversation about depression and anxiety, a short talk from a member of the counseling center who has worked in multiple countries, and roundtable discussions. We worked with Student Support Services and the University Counseling Center to advertise and execute our event. The event was open to Pitt students and anyone else in the area. Food and drinks were provided to everyone who attended. I wrote the skits and reached out to students that acted in plays on campus. I directed the skits to best portray common scenarios in which someone with mental illness may need help. The speaker from the counseling center, Bobbi Jo Wendel, spoke about recognizing signs of mental illness in yourself and others. After she spoke, we began our roundtable discussions on questions that we had previously written, relating to the Ted Talk, skits, talk, and cultural differences. During the discussion, coloring pages and crayons were provided. Panther Well also provided our event with kits for everyone to make their own stress-ball. The impact of this CEE was apparent by the conversations during the roundtables and the thanks from those who attended the event.