University of Pittsburgh | OaklandHeinz Programming Area:
Courtney Yu spent six weeks in Seoul, South Korea. While there, she studied at one of Korea’s top three universities, Yonsei University. She took a class that focused on East Asian Fiction, as well as an intensive Korean language course that met four days a week for three hours. During her free time, she continued to improve her language skills through various ways such as meeting native Korean speakers and ordering new dishes at restaurants. She was also able to learn more about her family’s lineage by visiting her father’s and grandparents’ hometowns. While studying abroad, one of Courtney’s goals was to learn if people viewed Korean Americans differently than native Koreans. Through conversations with the new friends she met, she was interested to learn that Korean citizens did not often think about the differences and similarities between the two groups. Rather, they had many misconceptions and believed in many stereotypes that described Americans as an overarching group, rather than Korean-Amerians specifically. Courtney is extremely grateful to have had an opportunity to study abroad in South Korea. Not only was she able to improve her language skills and learn more about the culture, she was also able to better understand the idea of being American and being Korean as well.
CEE Title: Breaking Down Invisible Barriers
The University of Pittsburgh-Oakland 2017 Cohort proudly presented their Community Engagement Experience (CEE), Breaking Invisible Barriers, to their campus in early-January. The cohort members include: Katelyn Axman, Eden Hailu, Moira Larkin, Ravan Williams and Courtney Yu. When all five cohort members came back to Pitt’s campus, they realized that they all experienced or noticed a type of blockage that created a difficult environment for groups of people to succeed. By thinking globally and acting locally, they realized that not only did these issues happen in their host countries, but they also occur on Pitt’s campus as well as the entirety of the United States. An invisible barrier is considered any kind of aspect in society that hinders the ability for marginalized people to succeed, often times these include societal norms or stereotypes.
While the members of the 2017 Oakland Cohort were planning their event, they realized that combating these issues is an extremely difficult feat, one that does not have a single solution. Therefore, their CEE event showcased what an invisible barrier is, what kinds of barriers exist all over the world, and a strong focus on how to detect an invisible barrier. By presenting the audience with these points, the audience was able to leave with the skill set needed to prevent invisible barriers from spreading. The barriers that the Oakland Cohort members decided to include were a lack of accessibility, beauty standards, cultural gender roles, and lack of integration of immigrants/refugees/international students. Each member focused on one of these invisible barriers and created a presentation with facts and statistics while also tying it back to Pitt. In addition, each member created an interactive component to supplement the presentation and create the connection from facts/statistics to real situations that people face. Through the presentation and activity, the 2017 Oakland Cohort was able to bridge the cultural divide that so often happens through the recognition of similarities between countries and their invisible barriers.