Exploring International Connections in the Keystone State
For four weeks this June and July, I called the University of Pittsburgh home as I participated in the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Global and International Studies. At this free, residential summer program, I was among 50 students, all rising juniors and seniors from high schools across Pennsylvania.
A typical day at the Governor’s School began with world language class and was followed by global studies and argumentation classes. I studied Mandarin Chinese (other options were Portuguese or Arabic) by singing songs, writing characters on the board, and conversing with my classmates. Then, in Global Studies, we examined the interconnectedness of people all over the world through four lenses: sustainability, global health, migration, and commodities. During each unit, we built on our high school knowledge through activities such as a video call with Syrian Kurdish refugees at a United Nations refugee camp in Iraq, summit simulations, and guest speaker presentations from professors and founders of non-profit organizations.
After classes and on the weekends, we were given free time. The campus and the Oakland neighborhood were bustling with college students staying for the summer, campus tour groups, and other summer program high schoolers. During my first time visiting Pittsburgh, I explored the city with my classmates in our free time, and we went on excursions to a Pirates game and the Andy Warhol Museum. Many of us also enjoyed trying the variety of food options in the city. One day in class, a casual discussion about nearby restaurants turned into a fired-up debate over whether Pittsburgh or Philadelphia was a better city; the debate was unresolved, and although I like Pittsburgh, I still prefer Philly.
One of my favorite casual activities was watching Korean dramas (K-dramas) with my friends. This was surprising because even as a Korean American, I have never been a huge fan of K-dramas. I overlooked my usual complaints, though, as the camaraderie that I felt with my classmates as we screamed in excitement and frustration at the TV screen was invaluable. Additionally, the familiarity of hearing the language from my earliest and fondest memories — trips to the Korean grocery store and hearing my parents and grandparents converse with each other in Korean — was comforting in a new environment.
Aside from my interest in global studies, a discipline that is not covered in school, I was most motivated to apply to the Governor’s School for Global and International Studies because it is free to Pennsylvania residents. At our graduation, we learned that the program is not guaranteed to run next year due to lack of funding. Four students at Strath Haven High School have benefited from the program’s scholarship, and a gift of as little as $5 would expand the accessibility of a Governor’s School experience, which, without supplementation, would cost $6,500. To donate, please visit http://www.giveto.pitt.edu/node/1631. My Governor’s School education will stay with me, and I hope that the program can continue to be accessible to all those who have a keen interest in exploring and expanding relationships among people and governments of the world.