As a 2019 Vira Heinz program member and scholarship recipient, Christene was given the opportunity to travel abroad to the South American country of Ecuador. During her eight weeks abroad Christene learned about the culture and society of Ecuador and also improved upon her knowledge of the Spanish language by taking classes on the subjects. Living with a host family in the city of Guayaquil, visiting local establishments, and meeting new people provided Christene with ample chances to practice her Spanish conversational skills. Harris interned at Centro Ecuatoriano Norteamericano (CEN) which is a cultural center that aims to make Ecuadorian citizens global citizens by introducing them to American culture and offering English language courses. Christene taught a 4-week course on American History at CEN and in her free time volunteered tutoring students struggling with the English language. While teaching Ecuadorian students around her age, she was able to challenge her students views and beliefs as well as her own by holding open discussions on prevalent topics in both Ecuador and America such as abortion rights, racism and discrimination, and more. Christene visited all four regions of the extremely bio-diverse country which includes the Coast, the Andes Mountains, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Galapagos Islands and even experienced the traditional lifestyles of indigenous Ecuadorians living in the Andes and Amazon. By fully immersing herself into the culture of Ecuador, she learned a lot about the country and created many meaningful relationships with people she met along her journey.
CEE Title: “Black Survival Guide to: Stereotypes Around The World”
My Community Engagement Experience was titled “A Survival Guide To Stereotypes Around The World”. We came up with the idea after countless discussions about our personal experiences abroad. We were intrigued by a commonality that we all experienced during our unique international experiences. All of us were black women living in a foreign, predominantly white or Hispanic country. Due to this, we all faced some degree of stereotyping towards us. The objective of our Community Engagement Experience was to create a safe space for open dialogue about the global issue of stereotyping and how it affects black men and women who travel abroad. We began our CEE with an Icebreaker activity that challenged our audience to take a look at their own stereotypes and biases that they hold against people of other nationalities, races, religions, etc. We used this as an introduction into the global issue that is stereotyping. We then shared our presentation. Our presentation consisted of three global stereotypes about black people that we witnessed or faced during our international experiences. We talked about the origins of these stereotypes and how they spread to a global platform. After our presentation, we opened up the floor for a conversation amongst ourselves and our audience about stereotypes that we may have faced domestically and globally. When acknowledging these stereotypes, we offered constructive ways to face them in different situations.