Brenna Callahan

International Experience Country:
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

University of Pittsburgh | Oakland

Brenna Callahan is a Western Pennsylvania native, who grew up in a small town with a farm in her backyard. She is currently a sophomore majoring in Economics, while also pursuing a Global Studies Certificate in Peace, Conflict, and Security and an Arabic Studies Certificate. Her passion for new experiences began at a young age. Brenna attended the Stanford University Mock Trial Program as a freshman and the Governor's School for Global and International Studies as a rising senior. These experiences allowed her to grow into a young leader in many different capacities. Her current role as the University of Pittsburgh's Mock Trial Team Business Manager is just one of many she has taken on in recent years. Outside of school, Brenna enjoys learning the basics of languages other than Arabic, reading and writing poetry in her journal, traveling, taking ballet classes, spending time with friends, and seeing her beloved cat, Tobie, and family whenever possible. Brenna often finds herself struggling to balance the part of her that wants to explore the world with the part that wants to stay grounded. An abroad experience in the language she loves, in a place she has never been, is just the remedy for that imbalance.  
International Experience Summary:

Brenna Callahan spent the summer of 2022 studying the Arabic language in Amman, Jordan. The intensive Arabic language courses solidified Brenna’s current knowledge of the language from university and expanded her use of grammar and colloquial terms. Her experience was divided into three parts: classroom, homestay, and excursions. Brenna lived with a wonderful Jordanian family that took her in as their own, preparing meals each morning and night and helping with homework struggles. She came to love spending time at the neighbor’s house and found their conversations to play a pivotal role in her growth abroad. Brenna’s class went on multiple excursions, including Petra, Wadi Rum, Jerash, Ajloun, and the Dead Sea. She fell in love with each new site visit and enjoyed her time spent with Bedouin tribes in the Wadi Rum desert the most. Brenna thoroughly enjoyed the “little moments” of her time abroad. She loved walking to the local gym after class, spending evenings at cafes studying with friends, and shopping at local markets on the weekends. The local Jordanian community was welcoming and always there to lend a hand if needed. Brenna enjoyed her short but memorable conversations with cab drivers and the stories from her professors about previous student group experiences. Although she was weary of the trip prior to her flight taking off, Brenna would not change one moment of the last few months and will be forever grateful for the lessons her experience abroad in Jordan has taught her. 


Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: “Gender: A Discussion on Identity and Equality”

The 2022 VIH Oakland Cohort’s CEE was titled Gender: A Discussion on Identity and Equality. We presented our CEE to Student Support Services students at the University of Pittsburgh. The purpose of the presentation was to connect our global experiences with various gender roles in our international experience countries to the gender roles students and members of the local Pitt community recognize in their circles. After beginning with a short presentation of introductions, we held a lengthy discussion on the various ways to define gender equality and gender identity, identifying key words along the way. Next, we began our activity which consisted of a variation of the famous social media “privilege walk”. Two members of the Oakland cohort lined up horizontally with the participating students and were given statements that prompted them to move forward or backward one step based on their experience with gender identity and equality in the Pitt community. An example statement from the presentation follows: “Please take a step forward if your gender identity has never hindered your participation in an academic setting.” At the end of this activity, we instructed the other students to observe where their gender identity has placed them on the spectrum of the walk; the further back from the horizontal line first formed, the more your gender identity has negatively impacted your daily experiences. We concluded the presentation with a round-table of takeaways of the experience.