You Know What’s Beautiful? A Real Conversation

The scholars sit around a conference-style table as they debrief their experience

One of the greatest experiences I will treasure from the 2023 SUSI program are deep meaningful conversations. The ability to sit back and talk about life, love, goals and dreams. The ability to articulate our deepest fears, desires and at the same time be still and listen.  The ability to laugh out loud as if no one is watching.  I have come to learn, it is through such conversations that we connect, exchange ideas, get inspiration and get a better perspective of other people’s world, crucial for growth.

Today was one of those days.  The program indicated we were supposed to have a debriefing session with delegates from the State Department, however due to unforeseen circumstances they could not make it.  Dawn, being the innovative person she is, suggested we turn the meeting into a sharing session i.e., experiences, best moments and surprises during the study tour.   We were so excited to speak up and turn the ASU DC conference room into room 444.

A group of scholars posed wearing Cambodian headscarves
Scarf Day, our last in Cronkite Room 444

Alejandro volunteered to go first, sharing his admiration for the communication teaching model at ASU which incorporates practical as well as theoretical aspects witnessed at the ASU campus in Los Angeles. He indicated that such an approach encourages creativity and prepares students for the ever-changing media industry. He hopes to go back to Costa Rica and implement some of the innovative and practical methods of teaching.

The ever-vibrant Angela went deep, opening up on how the SUSI program has positively impacted her life both professionally and personally. At a personal level, she narrated how the session on gaming for storytelling connected her to her children who are passionate about gaming. Professionally, Angela indicated she was at a point in her career where she felt like she had done it all, hence did not know how to move forward. The extensive knowledge, skills as well as the vast network provided by SUSI program has however given her a new direction and great resources to develop and implement more innovative communication programs for her country.  We could all see how this was so important to Angela as she shed a tear whilst sharing. It was beautiful and refreshing to witness how the program has positively impacted her life. 

Tirse from Turkey expressed how one of her greatest moments during the study tour has been meeting people from different countries in USA. She narrated her encounter with an Uber driver on the way to Los Angeles airport, originally from Iran but who had lived in Turkey for two years.  To her delight, the Uber driver could speak Turkish, enabling Tirse, for a moment, to be transported to Turkey and get back in touch with her identity. That among many other moments cemented the idea that America has diverse cultures, a home to all. 

African American Museum

Personally, my greatest moment during the study tour has been the visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  The experience was bittersweet but rewarding, as it evoked in me deep emotions that challenged me and enabled me to form new perspectives. It was heartbreaking to hear and partly experience the pain and injustices inflicted on Black people through slavery and as they fought for their freedom. Nevertheless, their bravery, courage and determination, to fight for freedom even to death, is nothing short of an inspiration. As a Black woman, I am motivated to constantly fight for my freedom and those around me, thanks for my forefathers who are great examples. 

Official portrait of President Barack Obama

Also finally, I gained insights on why freedom is an important agenda for the American government and people. Let me clarify: I consider freedom important as it births creativity, growth and well happiness.  Nevertheless, I have always felt freedom should have limits.  The study tour however made me realize that America is a place for all people from all over the world. America is home to diverse cultures, diverse views and diverse aspirations. The power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint is crucial for a thriving, progressive America. 

Overall, SUSI 2023 has been an experience of a lifetime. As I go home, in a few days, I will always be grateful I was privileged to have this experience, to meet amazing people and make beautiful memories and well, have beautiful conversations. Until we meet again, farewell team!