Carina Stopenski

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

Chatham University

Heinz Programming Area:
Arts and Culture
Study Abroad Country: Cohort Year:  Home Institution:  Programming Area: 
International Experience Summary:

Carina spent five weeks abroad in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where she focused on local historical preservation of oppressed South African populations. While attending Stellenbosch University, she took courses regarding South Africa specifically, including the country's political history, issues of inequality and unemployment, and the treatment and stigma of HIV and AIDS among South Africa's most at-risk populations. This niche perspective on South Africa helped Carina to gain a strong understanding of the community of Stellenbosch, as well as the surrounding townships of Kayamandi and Mbekweni. One of the most significant moments of Carina's trip was an excursion to Robben Island, where she toured the prison, viewed Nelson Mandela's cell, and spoke with a former prisoner-turned tour guide about his experiences on the island. She also attended a lecture at BePart Yolontu, Mbekweni's primary HIV-prevention clinic, and visited the District 6 Museum in the heart of Cape Town, which displayed the atrocities committed against people of color during the apartheid era and commemorated their strength and protest during the displacement period. Carina's favorite experience, however, was attending Poetry for Peace at the Gallery University Stellenbosch, an event organized by local youth organizations and Cape Town's premier poetry groups, Cypher and inZync. Here, she heard about the struggles of oppression firsthand from adolescent South Africans, who performed slam poetry in English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa. This not only implemented the technique of oral history, a staple of South African culture, but advocated for peace, artistic expression, and community solidarity. By engaging in these cultural and historical experiences as well as mingling with and befriending Stellenbosch locals, Carina gained new insight on how South Africans preserve their heritage as well as teach it to the coming generations, tourists, and those with a desire to learn. From seeing museums to playing with local children in community centers, Carina broadened her social, cultural, and educational horizons and learned what it meant to preserve a society that once struggled, but is once again thriving thanks to a persistent local community.  

Community Engagement Experience Summary:

CEE Title: Kiss My HarASSment

Kiss My HarASSment was a collaborative effort to raise awareness about sexual harassment and assault, particularly on college campuses. Set up in a roundtable-style format, students, faculty, and friends could all intermingle during the event. The cohort members provided food and drinks for the event, so those in attendance were able to both eat and network before the event began. The members of the VIH Cohort presented information about their respective study abroad endeavors, what they studied and accomplished while in their host country, as well as instances of harassment and assault that they faced while they were abroad. The cohort members then facilitated a roundtable discussion based in three different topics of harassment: workplace, institutional, and street harassment. By presenting these scripted questions as guidelines for roundtable discussion, attendees were able to share their own personal experiences as well as discuss how we can implement these behaviors of prevention. Chatham’s Public Safety presented the ways in which sexual harassment can be combatted on campus and what exactly constitutes as sexual harassment. Attendees also watched a video in which a woman responds to her catcallers on the street, which demonstrated that harassers feel uncomfortable when victims assert agency, and that feeling confident in yourself is one step that people can take to protect themselves. Those in attendance received cards with different prevention techniques listed on them, and learned the ways to stop harassment before it even starts. Additionally, representatives from the Green Dot program, a campus-wide initiative to increase bystander initiative in harassment and assault cases, came to speak on how the program will be instilled at Chatham. This program, much like the Title IX training that people on campus are educated on, will allow faculty and staff, as well as RAs and student organization leaders to undergo this sort of interventional training. This way, these campus leaders will be able to stop behaviors of sexual harassment before they escalate further. At the end of this program, students were offered supplemental resources from Chatham’s Office of Career Development and Public Safety and were able to further discuss the issues presented by the Cohort in a more casual way.