Friday, February 20, 2015

The Business Here is to Learn...Yourself

Why did I choose Macalester? As a senior graduating in a few months, I have been thinking a lot about this question. Why didn’t I choose a school that is larger or located in a warmer climate? In an email to my brother after I first heard about Mac in October 2010, I [apparently] wrote, “I heard it’s a good school, but the thing is, it’s in Minnesota and Mom doesn’t even know where that is.”

Choir has also been a big part of my college life

On the very first month of my freshman year, floormates gathered to celebrate a friend's birthday

There are many reasons I chose Macalester in the end, but one of the reasons I am most thankful for is diversity.

Before coming to Macalester, I attended the same institution from elementary through high school, which means I did not have to make new friends for 12 years. Crazy, right? Honestly, I loved our sense of community. But it also meant that I had no chance to interact with people from different backgrounds.

That was the biggest reason why I applied to Macalester and decided to spend four years here.

Looking back to those moments of deciding my path, I would say it was the right decision. In fact, “diversity” is used in so many contexts today that it was hard for me to fully understand what it meant and why it’s so important. But I know now as a senior at Macalester that diversity is not only about gaining different perspectives, but also about learning about myself and my values.

I was raised in Japan, one of the most racially homogenous countries in the world, and educated in an all-female Catholic school for 12 years.
Before Fall 2011, I was a part of the majority group at my school—Japanese, Catholic, female.

But three and a half years ago, for the first time in my life, I became part of a minority—an international student, a religious person, a female. (Yes, I realize females are not technically a minority group at Mac, but compared to my past experience of being surrounded only by girls, it felt like that for me!)

Being a minority for the first time was not easy. I was confused about who I was in relation to others. Some people might call it an identity crisis, but I dare to call it identity exploration.

A semester in Paris with a wonderful French host family also broadened my horizons
Classes gather outside of classroom, too - Lunch with Political Science Senior Capstone class and a professor
What does it mean to be Japanese or Asian?
Back home, I identified myself solely as Japanese but not necessarily as Asian because I knew that each Asian country had its distinct characteristics. I never even thought about what it meant to be Japanese and how others perceive Japan.

Three years ago, I felt uncomfortable when people called me Asian I felt as if my Japanese heritage was somehow buried in the word Asian. I was frequently asked about the politics, culture, and history of my country, yet found myself not having full answers.
Since then, I’ve tried to understand the history of Japan, and started questioning what the categorization of race means in the U.S. by taking an American Studies class called  Asian America.

What does it mean to be a Catholic?
Back home, I assumed that friends around me knew the teaching of Jesus and that the most important thing about Catholicism is to “love your enemy.”

Three years ago, I learned that what I associate with my religion was not necessarily what other people associate with it. I also realized how ignorant I was about the history of Christianity in relation to other religions.
Since then I’ve started exploring the meaning of religion and learning about different religions by joining the Multifaith Council.

What does it mean to be a female?
Back home, I’d never met a person identifying as LGBTQ and never thought about what sexuality meant to me—socially, economically, or politically.
Three years ago I made my first friend with a sexual orientation different from mine and learned about preferred gender pronouns. I learned that what I thought didn’t see in Japan was not due to its absence, but due to its illegibility caused by the unspoken oppression and discrimination in society.

Since then I’ve tried to inform myself, as well as people back home, that there are alternative ways for understanding the traditional gender roles we’ve taken for granted.

For the first time in my life, I faced the necessity to articulate who I am, to explain to others what my values are, and to understand myself. By interacting with people from different backgrounds, I realized that there are many things I didn’t know about myself and about my country, religion, and sexuality. And there are many things I learned only after getting out from the community.

There are opportunities to represent your country, such as the annual International Kidsfest

Three years ago, I felt insecure and naked but glad I gotten out of my comfort zone. And I hope you will, too, by coming to Macalester. Sure, it requires courage, effort, and sometimes pain. But despite its weather, the Macalester community warmly supports, welcomes, and encourages students to take risks to struggle, explore, learn, and grow.

On that first hot, shiny afternoon in late August 2011, I was excited to hear at the new student convocation that “the business here is to learn.” Back then I was thought that meant learning in the classroom. And indeed it’s true that I’ve been challenged and have appreciated all the intellectual discussions I’ve had with my peers and professors. But now I know that learning about myself, much of which took part outside classrooms— through casual chats over lunch at Cafe Mac, late nights in the common rooms, and on the way to classes—was just as important. And much of that learning was only possible because of the diversity of the people around me.

I’m still figuring out who I am but I’m happy that Macalester helped me in my journey of self-exploration. I’m looking forward to the life ahead and to find the voice in myself

Alexis Ayano Terai ’15, Japan

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Studying Abroad in Granada

Last Fall, I spent the semester studying abroad in Granada, Spain. While there, I wrote to Admissions describing the experience and why I think that international students should come to Macalester. I was just reading back on it and I thought it would make a great blog post. I hope you can identify with some of the things I say!

View from El Generalife after a free tour of the Alhambra

"I am doing well and Granada has been great :) There was a random hail storm yesterday but it's back to sunny skies. While here, I'm taking 3 classes, an internship, and an independent study. For my internship I am working with an international organization called UIM (Unión Iberoamericana de Municipalistas) which partners with lots of different districts across Spain and Latin America to aid in efforts of development. They offer scholarship programs for courses dealing with things like Gender Equality in the workplace, Local Development and Management, Auditing and Controlling the workplace, and Technical Training. It's a great place to work and their staff is quite diverse (from all over Spain, Latin America, and the Caribbean) which makes me feel right at home.

View of the Albaycin from the Alhambra

The Independent Study I'm doing is basically trying to answer the question of why immigrants from Latin America choose to stay in Spain during a prolonged period of economic crisis. I'm still in the early stages of research and trying to get everything approved by the Macalester SAIRB board. I've started having weekly meetings with my advisor who is an Anthropology professor at the University of Granada. She has been very helpful and shares a similar interest in the topic.

End of the program farewell party
As for my Mac experience, I think it's important for international students to know that at Macalester there is a certain balance of academic rigor and community support. While there are tons of highly accessible opportunities to volunteer, do internships, apply for fellowships, travel, and do research, there is also an intricate network of students from all over the world who care about you and want the best for you. I've found some amazing people at Macalester and it really helps to make a meaningful college experience. When I speak to some of my old classmates who opted to go to other schools, a lot of them had a rough transition in the beginning because of the stark contrasts between the strong community-base they were used to and the more individualistic aspect of their respective universities. However, I did not have a similar experience and felt comfortable from day 1 which is something that should not be downplayed."

Jonathan van Arneman ‘16
Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
Global Ambassador Program Coordinator

Learn more about the Global Ambassadors >>

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

SPEAK! Series: “Rethinking Israel-Palestine”

On Tuesday, November 4th, over one hundred students and community members joined Noura Erakat in the John B. Davis Lecture Hall for her discussion titled “Rethinking Israel-Palestine.” Noura Erakat is a Palestinian-American human rights attorney and activist. She is also an Assistant Professor at George Mason University and co-editor of Jadaliyya, an independent ezine produced by the Arab Studies Institute. Professor Juliana Hu Pegues of American Studies acted as the interviewer for the “Inside the Activist’s Studio” format for the SPEAK! Series. Noura began the discussion by sharing her personal experience growing up as a Palestinian-American woman with parents who did not want their children being involved with the conflict in Palestine. With wit and humor, she also discussed how disillusioned she was with law school where she fully realized that laws often failed to provide justice, as in the case with Palestine. Through her responses, Noura demonstrated her personal investment in the liberation of Palestine in a manner that was able to engage with opposing perspectives. She drew parallels between the settler-colonialism taking place in Israel and the United States in an attempt to educate Macalester students about how we benefit everyday from the ongoing colonization of Indigenous Peoples. Students took away from the conversation the ability to articulate the conflict in Palestine and Israel to others. Various departments and student organizations at Macalester co-sponsored this event to help make it a successful and memorable one.

Isabel Ruelas‘15, and Elissa Lee ‘15
Lealtad-Suzuki Center’s Program Assistants

Established in August 2002, the LSC is the programmatic arm of the Department of Multicultural Life (DML).   The LSC provides a range of services, including intentional multicultural education and campus programming; ongoing training and development opportunities for faculty, staff, and students; and personal consultations to discuss issues of identity exploration and cross-cultural communication.

LEARN MORE about the Department of Multicultural Life

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Favorite Class from the Fall Semester

I really enjoyed my GIS and Community Partnerships class this fall. We spent the entire semester working with a nonprofit organization to create maps and analyze data for them using GIS (a mapping and data analysis software). At the end of the semester, we presented our findings and offered recommendations to the organization. It was one of the most fulfilling classes I've taken so far!

Joe ‘16

This semester, my first at Mac, I took Intro to African American Studies with Professor Duchess Harris. Professor Harris edited her syllabus just a few weeks before classes started so that our final paper topic was "Is Ferguson a human rights issue?" She made sure we were able to connect the theories and approaches of great African American leaders, as well as American notions of blackness, to the events happening in Ferguson, MO and around the country--she sent us links to articles and other current information almost every day. I learned so much about the complexities of race in America, and because of that course, continue to learn every day.

M. L. ‘18

I really enjoyed my art course, 2D Design.  It took up a lot of time, but the professor was great at giving tips while letting everybody design for themselves.  It resulted in a lot of fantastic projects, each coming from very different sources and drawing on different ideas.

Ian '16

I really enjoyed my Screenwriting class. I thought it would be hard to balance reading and analyzing professional works with workshopping the work of my peers, but it worked out great. I read some really neat student-written screenplays that I hope to see turned into feature-length films one day!

Angela ‘15

The class that I enjoyed the most was my first-year course - CHEM 111 General Chemistry I. We not only had so much fun in lab, and had a wonderful professor who inspires us all and is always willing to give extra help, but also shared many great moments outside of the classroom together! I especially love the fact that my first-year-course classmates are also my floormates. While not discussing and working on chemistry problems, we go to Cafe Mac together, or just simply sit in Turck 3 Lounge, enjoying each other's company, and having a great talk about literally anything in life.

Hoang Anh '18

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Thanksgiving in the Minnesota

In my six years in the U.S. I have experienced many different Thanksgivings, from eating pizza to celebrating with a vegan meal. Coming from Spain, where we do not have Thanksgiving, I was excited to experience a “real” Thanksgiving with turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and lots of pecan and pumpkin pie. This year I got to have just such a Thanksgiving, as I celebrated this special day with a family in Northfield.
Although Erin, our host and master chef, had baked the cakes the day before and prepared all the ingredients and set the table, the cooking didn’t really begin until Thanksgiving Day, really early in the morning.

Erin woke up at 6 a.m. to put the turkey in the oven. We were planning to eat around noon, so she had to start cooking very early. Family members arrived at the house at 10 a.m. for a light breakfast before the big meal.
Eleanor, the youngest in the family, is always the queen of the party. She loves playing around, so we had some fun together. She wanted to take a “night-night nap” with her cousin Cristian, and she found a way to make it dark by hiding under the covers. While the food was being prepared, we also had time to paint her nails.

Little by little, the dishes started to come out, and everybody was getting really excited. All the food looked delicious. 

Cranberry sauce!

Fresh rolls!

Aunt Laura’s whipped cream salad (apple bites, snickers and whipped cream)!!

Chef Erin also prepared the sweet potatoes!

Finally, after six hours in the oven, the turkey was almost ready—19 pounds of it! Grandma Susie was in charge of making the gravy, while Uncle John was asked to carve the turkey.

When all the food was ready, we took a picture of Chef Erin. Everything was so good that we all ate too much, and some of us—like Jay—had to take naps.

Given that we had all gathered for the holiday, we decided to take some time to put up the Christmas tree, too.

I had such an amazing time spending Thanksgiving with this wonderful family.
Thank you, Casey and Erin, for being the best hosts. I am so thankful for this family.

Happy Holidays! - Sara '15

2014 Macalester Winter Ball

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lealtad-Suzuki Center: Xpressions: Self Image Gallery Project

The Self Image Gallery Project by the Department of Multicultural Life’s Xpressions program was intended to emphasize the importance of recognizing the beauty of all identities and capturing the art of self expression in the community.

The images, photographs, and videos were submitted by people around campus, with the option of remaining anonymous. We were hoping to allow students and the community to share their expressive art pieces in a variety of forms. We received several exceptional art mediums such as a self portrait collage and a self shot/self expression video. Since we got fewer submissions that intended, we also gave the community a different opportunity to express how they see themselves and how they want others to see them.  

As part of the display in the atrium space on the second floor of the Campus Center, we put up a blank canvas where people can draw or write their responses to the prompts, “how do you see yourself?” And “how do you want others to see you?” The display ran until the 31st of October. 

By Grace Zhu ‘16, Amy McMeeking ’16 , and Errol Phalo ‘17
Lealtad-Suzuki Center’s Program Assistants

Established in August 2002, the LSC is the programmatic arm of the Department of Multicultural Life (DML).   The LSC provides a range of services, including intentional multicultural education and campus programming; ongoing training and development opportunities for faculty, staff, and students; and personal consultations to discuss issues of identity exploration and cross-cultural communication.
LEARN MORE about the Department of Multicultural Life

Monday, November 10, 2014

Language Lessons Abroad

A few weeks ago, I told my coworker that I like wearing my horse on top of my head because of the heat in Santiago. 

She just looked at me blankly. With an uncertain smile, I pointed at my head, where my hair was piled up in the style I was trying to describe. Realization hit her and she burst out laughing and explained my mistake with a grin. Unfortunately for me, the Spanish words for hair and horse are very similar (cabello and caballo, respectively). I couldn’t help but chuckle as I hid my blushing cheeks in my hands.
Even after two years of Spanish classes, it still takes me a few tries to accurately convey my thoughts. As evidenced above, I frequently confuse words and meanings. Understanding what people are saying to me is not much easier than speaking to them. But I’m still trying my best to absorb everything that’s said to me throughout the day. After about three months here in la República Dominicana, I would say I understand about 68.3 percent of what I hear.

La bandera waving proudly in the nation’s capital, Santo Domingo
However, this still leaves at least a 31.7 percent margin of error (not allowing for distractions caused by the sweltering heat, the constant sunburn, or frequent bug bites). Sometimes it feels as if my time as an exchange student has been largely defined by moments of linguistic confusion.

The view of Santiago’s iconic El Monumento from my bedroom window.
Since August I have been living and breathing (and tripping all over) la cultura dominicana in my host city, Santiago de los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic. As a student in the CIEE-Service Learning program, I spend my mornings in classes at the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra, located in the heart of Santiago. On the weekends—at least when I’m not doing homework—I explore the island of Hispaniola.

I’ve stopped by the capital, Santo Domingo:

Apparently, you have to specifically ask the street vendors not to put corn in your hair when you buy a bag of corn to feed the pigeons.

A few beautiful beaches:

The Caribbean sun is NOT messing around. Blancas like me MUST wear sunscreen at all times.

 And national parks on the coast and in the mountains:

Bug spray has become this girl’s best friend. No matter where I go the mosquitos find me! 
However, the best parts of my semester are every weekday afternoon. When classes are over for the day I head off to work with the local community organization Fundación Cuidado Infantil Dominicano (Dominican Childcare Foundation, FCID). There I meet up with a community healthcare worker (called a promotora) and we make our way to the poorest neighborhoods in the province of Santiago.

Walking through the neighborhood Parada Siete, named for a nearby bus stop, with my promotoras.

In these neighborhoods, we provide affordable rehabilitation services to children with disabilities and teach their families how to best support and care for these children. The program adapts its services to each child within a broad spectrum of disabilities that manifest physically or cognitively.

At times, my novice-level Spanish catches up with me. The horse/hair/head debacle is just one example of my daily blunders in the world of language immersion. Many visits with FCID put my fledgling Spanish skills to the test as I talk with children who have speech impediments or cognitive disabilities. The ensuing conversations usually end up being a test of vocabulary (for me) and patience (for the kid).

Giving homework help to Luis Eddy.

In these conversations, I’ve added some really useful words, such as oso, cordillas, and pinzas (bear, shoelaces, and tweezers) to my mental dictionary. I’ve also frantically searched my brain for a particular word that is always right on the tip of my tongue. Most importantly, I’ve learned the best coping mechanism for a language barrier is a smile.

When Spanish words fail me (which is more often than not), a smile can suffice as an hola, a gracias, a felicidades, an adiós, or an invitation to play.

I have a means of communication, even if I am sunburnt to a crisp,covered in bug bites, and my hair smells like pigeons and corn. A smile will almost always take the place of a sentence (especially when I can’t remember the difference between cabello and caballo).

- Hannah Currens '17