In one of my classes, Global Feminisms, I’ve been assigned a paper. Specifically, my professor would like the class to compile a (elaborated) list of ways our culture, family, and hometown have shaped us to become who we are. Although my paper isn’t yet finished, I’ve found that writing these blogs can really help get my creative juices flowing. Also, reflecting on your own experiences is a critical component of self awareness, and understanding where your own biases come from is a foundational part of critical thinking and analysis. In addition, with the Spring trip coming up, I’ve found myself preparing with the rest of the travelling group for the experience by considering what aspects of my identity affect how I see myself and how society sees me. So with all this on my mind, I thought I’d share some things with you…
Although I was born in Columbia, Maryland, I spent most of my life living in State College (yes, I’m a townie). I come from a white, middle class family–the same as many of my peers growing up. Both of my parents have PhD’s and work at PSU, so from a young age, the importance of education and being curious was constantly stressed to me. As a result, I have always been a very good student, not because I’m intelligent per se, but because I value my education very highly and simply enjoy learning. My immediate family is also very liberal, and as my own political ideological developed, I found myself agreeing with this stance. My position in almost every social, economic, and political issue tends towards the left. These are views I’ve kept despite them often being contested by my peers, who are on average more conservative than myself.
So far you can probably tell that my family is very involved in my life, which I’m glad for. Even though I no longer am living with them, we talk multiple times a week, and I normally go home to visit a few times each month, since they live locally. They continue to have a profound effect on my life. I’ve always admired my dad’s work at PSU, and his passion for American politics is what initially got me interested in government. Now I’m majoring in Political Science at the same University he is employed! That said, I could probably point to my mom for getting me interested in what is now my second major at PSU: Women’s Studies. I have an especially close relationship with my mom, who I tell everything to (I’ve always been a mommy’s girl). She is the person who introduced me to the rock genre of music (now my favorite thing to listen to), as well as several other key cultural elements that have shaped my personality. Although I’m technically a middle child, my older brother was eleven years older than me, and moved off to college when I was very young. As a result, I tend to act more like an older sister than anything else. In other words, between myself and my 14-year old brother, I’ve always been the responsible one (honestly, ask my parents). Over the years I’ve also developed a close friendship with my younger brother, who I enjoy passing my wisdom onto and, now that seeing him has become a special occasion, spoiling rotten.
I’ve always been extremely interested in other cultures, and travelling is one of my favorite past times. I’ve travelled to a few different countries already, although most of them were in Western/central Europe. I would love to travel everywhere if I could! Anyway, I feel like the experiences I’ve had outside of my own culture, even if it just involved travelling to another state, has greatly increased my worldview. I try to study different cultures as often as I can, simply out of curiosity. I speak three languages (English, German, and Arabic) and I’d like to learn more. After college, I have dreams of working at a place like the United Nations or Amnesty International in order to aid poor and/or oppressed people around the world. Right now I have my sights set on the women of North Africa and helping them gain economic independence.
Another extremely important part of my identity right now is my involvement in community service. I’ve been volunteering through various organizations since I was six years old. First, it was Girl Scouts, which I stuck with for eleven years, going so far as to earn my Gold Award my senior year of high school. When I was fifteen I joined a group called FISH, a Presbyterian youth group that was open to all faiths and which made yearly trips down to Pittsburgh in order to help local volunteers with the homeless situation there. Now in college, I’m a member of a student org called ServeState, which has me doing more volunteering than I’ve ever done in my life. In fact, I’ve been elected service coordinator for this semester, meaning it’s my responsibility to plan and run the multitude of service events our group is involved in each week. I love this work and seeing the difference I’m able to make in people’s lives. I’ve met so many interesting people and learned a lot about the world that I’m sure I never would have had I kept within my middle-class white girl sphere. You can probably see how this has led me to pursue my current career goals.
So, now that I’ve information dumped on you (sorry), I must say that was very helpful for me–almost cleansing. It’s actually pretty clarifying to lay everything out on the table, in writing. Now, obviously not everything about me is in this post, but now I can see where most of the parts of me stem from. With the Spring trip approaching, I’d recommend this to anyone who wants to get in better touch with themselves before we expose ourselves to knowledge which could turn our world upside down.