AMST Majors Summer 2017

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Featured AMST Summer: Irla Atanda – Gilman Scholar in Cape Town, South Africa

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This past summer, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Cape Town, South Africa for four weeks as a Gilman Scholar. I had the opportunity of taking a course on South African history and comparing it to our American history some comparisons included the Apartheid Movement to the Civil Rights movement. The program included multiple visits to museums including the Apartheid Museum, Nelson Mandela’s house, multiple slave lodges, etc. As an American Studies Major minoring in International Development, this experience helped foster my interest in US Foreign Policy concerning racial justice, gender equality, and poverty alleviation. During my visit, I reached out to the multiple locals I encountered and engaged them in conversations revolving around politics. Many of the locals I talked to looked up to America so much but were also disheartened by our current political climate. It was a blessing to be in a country that looks up so much to America but also difficult to attempt to explain to South Africans how exactly our political system works. These conversations definitely served to spur my interest in policy and global development.


Bailey Kendall – SSLP at Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas

I worked in El Paso this summer on an SSLP, volunteering with Annunciation House, a house of hospitality for undocumented immigrants. This work brought me so much closer to understanding the immigrant experience, and let me serve some incredible people searching for a safer life. And since I'm considering law school after graduation, learning some of the intricacies of our broken immigration system was really eye-opening for me. Sometimes the law doesn't make sense, and you have to work with what you've got. Annunciation House gave me the best summer of my life, and I am profoundly grateful that I got to spend a few months working with immigrants.


Joe Tenaglia – SSLP at Brother's Keeper in Easton, Massachusetts 

This summer is did an SSLP at My Brother's Keeper in Easton, MA. My Brother's Keeper is a Christian organization that seeks to bring the love and hope of Jesus Christ to all those they serve, and the specific means through which they accomplish that mission is by delivering furniture and food to people in need. My job consisted of leading crews of volunteers on furniture and food deliveries as well as furniture donation pickups. The work related to AMST because I had the opportunity to witness firsthand some of the systems of oppression that hold so many back. The American dream for so many of the people I met this summer was just making it to the next month, week, or even day. While our culture prizes personal initiative and getting ahead, it is impossible to get ahead when society boxes you in and refuses to help you out.


Jacob McKenna – Study Abroad at the University of Heidelberg in Germany

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This spring/summer, I had the opportunity to study abroad at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. I took classes at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) on Southern literature, famous American speeches, and American missionary history. It was especially fascinating to be a part of class discussions with students from Germany, Ireland, America, Italy, Spain, Japan, and more. My entire experience in Heidelberg was a tremendous transnational experience that taught me so much about how Americans are perceived abroad, how America is understood abroad, and how Americans can learn from others. It was especially rewarding when these conversations were in German, as it challenged me to think more about how I talk about American issues, and how I interact with those who may have a different worldview than my own. I would encourage anyone in AMST to check out Heidelberg for study abroad. It's unbeatable.


Madison Riehle – Intern at Good Day New York

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This summer I worked at Fox5 in New York City as an intern for their Good Day New York program, where I worked from 4 a.m. to 12 p.m. The hours were definitely hard but it was a completely different and exciting experience. I worked under the producers of the show, writing pitches, editing content and writing chyrons and talking points. Some of the less important jobs were ensuring the guests on the show were taken care of, and other organizational office odd jobs. It was really great to meet the celebrities who came on the show, and really put me out of my comfort zone. 


Koki Kobayashi – Gap Year, Swim Instructor at YMCA

I took a gap year between my senior year of high school and start of my freshman year here at Notre Dame, and I spent that time giving back to my community by teaching swim lessons to kids at the YMCA. After watching the Olympic games in Rio, I've noticed almost all of the swimmers talking about how important it is to reduce the drowning rate and how more than half of America doesn't know how to swim. As a swimmer, I was inspired and felt the need to put in my time to help increase the number of kids who can swim in our community. I hope to continue to help people learn the essential skills of swimming and water safety in the future, regardless of what career I will have.


Katie Leyden – Employee at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in Stone Harbor, NJ

This past summer, I did some research on caffeine in relation to human reliance—as I completed my third summer as a waitress at a popular beach town pancake restaurant. I was able to interact with and analyze the customers who I greeted with a pot of hot coffee in hand, their responses varying from an emphatic “Please” to “Keep it coming” to “Do you even have to ask.” Showcasing the severity of our fast-paced society's growing dependence on caffeine, the hundreds of tables I waited this summer allowed me to advance not only my small talk skills, but my ability to carry four plates on one arm as well. All in all, my experience at the pancake house taught me valuable lessons in collaboration, customer-service, and brewing the perfect pot—all skills that I feel certain will benefit me in my future career in American Studies. 


Emily Okawara – Volunteer Leader at Nazareth Farm in West Virginia

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This summer I lived, learned, and served at Nazareth Farm in West Virginia, a non-profit that transforms lives through community home repair and retreat experiences, while living out the cornerstones of prayer, simplicity, community, and service. I spent 8 weeks being present to the volunteers from High Schools all around the country, helping around the Farm, and assisting at/leading worksites during volunteer group weeks. I worked on a roof, siding, screen doors, at the senior center, painting, and on home crew (the work crew that stays at home cooking, cleaning, welcoming home, etc.).  I was lucky to have the opportunity to lead two work sites—one to The Clarksburg Mission – a homeless shelter and Christian organization in downtown Clarksburg, and another at Energy Express, a summer nutrition and literacy program for West Virginia K-6 students.

As an American Studies major, I was contantly aware of the injustices present in the community. I was able to see and hear about the lived realities of our community friends, and begin to realize the complexities of rural poverty, illiteracy, homelessness, educational inequality, foster care, poor health, environmental issues, and the tensions between a changing America and the age-old Appalachian culture. 


Tessa Bangs – Communications Intern at the Office of the Manhattan Borough President in New York

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This summer, I served as the Communications Intern for the Borough President of Manhattan, Gale A. Brewer. The position of borough president in New York City is a really interesting one, as the office mainly has powers concerning public programming and land use, while also needing to serve as an authoritative voice on all matters affecting Manhattan. As Communications Intern, I conducted policy research; helped to manage the Borough President's social media; designed pamphlets, programs and such; wrote talking points and speeches; drafted proclamations and citations; and went to multiple events each week. At some of these events, I represented the Office; at others, I staffed the Borough President; and at others, I wrote memoranda for the rest of the Office on what had happened at these lectures, panels, ceremonies and more.


Ragan Sernel – Math and PE Teacher at Memphis Athletic Ministries in Memphis

This summer, I worked for Memphis Athletic Ministries. "MAM’s mission is to help build godly youth in under-resourced neighborhoods by teaching them to love God, love others and love themselves. Our vision is to develop youth into Christ-centered, productive adults, positively impacting their families and neighborhoods." I worked in a paid position as both a math and PE teacher for kids aged 7-15. Working in a predominantly Latino community, I practiced speaking Spanish with the kids. The week that I left for Notre Dame, ICE raids were conducted in the neighborhood in which I worked affecting one of the families I worked with. I do not know the status of all of the families, however, this summer gave me a personal insight into our nation's immigration debate.