Images of Africa Kate Murray ’13 has a question for you: What’s the first word that comes to mind when you read the word “Africa”? If you said “elephants,” “AIDS” or “famine,” you aren’t the only one. Murray posed this question to the university community last spring through an installation in Moody Hall’s International Lounge. With $900 she raised through the online fundraising site Kickstarter, she created a phone-booth–sized plexiglass room, surrounded it with white curtains and projected video clips outward onto the curtains. She wrote two questions — the one about Africa and a second about how participants felt they had been stereotyped — on the inner walls. As the number of responses grew, so did the amount of effort it took to see beyond all the stereotypes. In its week on display, the installation garnered 244 responses and became “an interactive, symbolic and transitory piece of
art” representing the subject of Murray’s senior thesis — how national identity, historical narratives and the media Kate Murray ’13 influence American perspectives of other cultures, groups or regions, particularly the African continent. undergraduate, she spent summers in Rwanda “With the interactive format, each and Uganda — and “didn’t fall off a map.” participant’s perspective became the most “What has really captured my intellectual important part of the process,” she says. “The curiosity about Africa isn’t really in Africa. ‘writings on the wall,’ in a literal sense, revealed It’s what’s in the minds of so many people a common thread about the American outside of it and what we’re trained to believe perspective and hopefully led people to ask and expect,” she says. “I was no exception. I whether their perspective matches the reality, thought the negative aspects would dominate a kind of questioning that seems to be so often my experience. But those expectations weren’t in short supply.” met. Instead, I was accepted into loving Murray will continue her search for answers home-stay families and shared experiences of next year when she moves to Gulu, Uganda, genuine joy. I took advantage of opportunities to work for the nonprofit Pangea Educational for learning at every turn, and each one has Development. It’s not her first trip to the Dark changed my life.” —Stacia Hernstrom MLA ’05 Continent (one of many inaccurate descriptions that just won’t go away, says Murray). As an
Study Abroad Done Right
Ask students who’ve studied abroad about their experiences, and you’ll likely be showered with words like “amazing,” “incredible” and “life-changing.” But was the experience really all of those things? Professor of Business Communication Catherine MacDermott has spent the past two years studying how a student’s global perspective changes over the course of a study-abroad program. Here’s some of what she discovered.
MacDermott looked at students who studied abroad for 10 days, four weeks and an entire semester. All experienced positive changes. 7