Learning on the Job

I have only been an intern with the Center for Global Studies for one month, and already I have been pleasantly forced out of my comfort zone. While it was originally intimidating and left me wondering if I would be capable of all the things expected of me, I feel confident that the skills I learn will be beneficial for a wide variety of future careers. The help from our advisor Sarah Lyall-Combs and the inspiration from my fellow interns has so far given me expectations of good things to come.

My first assignment was to enter all the classes Penn State offers that have an element of global studies into a master spreadsheet. While it wasn’t what I would consider all that fun of a task, it taught me valuable lessons. I set my standards for how quickly I could accomplish it way too high, and after setting my personal deadline for finishing it too early, I struggled to keep my promise. It is a lesson that only takes once to learn and hopefully one I will remember throughout the semester.

However, already the work here has paid dividends in terms of applying to my interests and potential career fields. The Center sponsored a screening of German actress, documentarian, and director Mo Asumang’s documentary Die Arier. As a German minor, I am always interested in learning more about the culture and language that makes Germany and all German-speaking states such unique places. The film detailed Asumang’s quest for understanding of the roots of the term “Aryans” and how it applies to modern day neo-Nazi groups in Germany and the U.S. The film showed her, a black German, confronting racists head on at neo-Nazi rallies, Ku Klux Klan meetings, and even in their own homes. The film showed the absolute ludicrousness of the racist movements and how useless and misguided the term “Aryan” actually is. The film showed taboo sides of both Germany and the U.S. that don’t get much attention on a daily basis, and was an important reminder that intense racism still exists. It also brought to light the necessity to never relent in the continual education of tolerance and respect, because if anything, the film showed how fundamentally flawed beliefs not founded in fact or reason are cause for so much hate.

Interviewing Ms. Asumang and Rafi Nadiri were wonderful insights into cultures I was unfamiliar with. Growing up in Southwestern Ohio, I was never given enough exposure to different cultures, other than what was portrayed in the media. Being allowed to conduct my own interviews of fascinating people from different places is something I am very much looking forward to. The American media has its own way of portraying places like Afghanistan, and largely ignores the seedier parts of society like the neo-Nazi groups. Being able to speak firsthand with incredible people like Rafi Nadiri (who works to improve the rule of law in Afghanistan and protect the rights of women) and Mo Asumang has already given me alternative narratives of the world. Once again, they are learning experiences that give me valuable professional skills as well as a better idea of the world around us and the endlessly fascinating people that make it up.

I am looking forward to helping the Center bring more guests like Asumang to Penn State to help educate and inform our students. She is a fascinating person, and I’m sure there will be many more with equally important lessons to teach. I cannot wait to be a part of it all!

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