What I’ve Learned

This class has been one to keep me busy in a different way than my others. Rather than the extensive amounts of homework, I have been able to involve myself in the community to actually help to make a difference.

I think the main thing I learned in the course is to not be so quick to dismiss the amount of power and privilege I have in the world. Sure, there are others with more, but there are also many more with much less. I’ve learned how to evaluate where I stand in my privilege so I can become an advocate for those in need, and with it has come a newfound respect for others’, regardless of their backgrounds. 

These important realizations are going to help me with future interactions in that I can get myself out of ignorance by learning to evaluate and involve myself with cultures that are not my own. Through perhaps making myself uncomfortable at times, I can learn to be better in helping others and to provide a voice for those unable to speak out, which is really what the communication major is about.

Intercultural Experiences

Book: The book I chose to read was A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Based in Afghanistan, the book is about two women’s lives, Mariam and Laila, that are forced to marry a man, Rasheed, whom is extremely abusive and degrading. The book was devastating, but I’m glad I read it because I feel that I don’t know much about Afghanistan in general, and I needed the eye-opening experience. I read all of it in about 48 hours because I couldn’t stop reading; this class has helped me to begin looking into opportunities to now help those in need in one way or another.

Peruvian food: I went to Rincon Peruano in Orem with some friends, and I found that even as a particularly picky person, anyone can find something they  enjoy at an international-based restaurant. I got a stuffed potato that had various vegetables in it. On the side was rice with an over easy egg on it, which was surprisingly good. Not something I expected.  It didn’t have a lot of seasonings, but ultimately the vegetables were enough for it to taste fine. 

Social Media and Thoughts on the Guest Speaker

Popular media influences our culture in a variety of ways, and an obvious one includes social media, specifically snapchat and Instagram. I think our culture is built around it in a way that most would not have expected beforehand. We have become so affected that companies are using these sites as well as their “selfie filters” to make money, and it’s all based on something that was designed to be cute, really. Much of something that wasn’t necessarily expected to be a big deal has made our culture has been geared around making money off our own photos, and I find that really interesting.

With the guest speaker’s presentation, I found it interesting in the way he was stressing he was not racist, just ignorant of the culture. I think many of us get the two confused, so it’s nice to put into perspective that there is hope to change from being ignorant. Another interesting comment that was made was that they felt forced to learn about the culture if they wanted to do business in Ghana. They realized to show respect to the culture, they would learn it, something that applies much more often than we think. By accommodating to the local beliefs, such as not working on Tuesdays, they were seen as respectful and were accepted much more than before. There’s nothing wrong with learning more about different cultures to be respectful, and it seems like a really fluent way of adapting to a place. 

Relationships and Group Presentations

The person I talked to was Mashael A.; however, she goes by Michelle.   Michelle is not seeing anyone romantically at the moment, but we talked about her adjustment to the United States from Saudi Arabia and how difficult it was for her to make friends when she first arrived. We discussed that she had, at first, dated someone, but she said her customs and his ideation did not match. Now, she told me, she has “good, mostly white American friends,” but even in being their friend, she finds herself feeling like an outsider much more than she would like to admit due to a difference in culture. Some aspects have began to morph together, but she has found that even after six years, she could not give some customs from Saudi Arabia up to mix with Americans’ ideas about things, but she still appreciates the culture.

The activity I think was the main thing that stood out to me in Friday’s group presentation. I’ve always realized I, and everyone, make assumptions about others that are not fair to make, but even in assuming if my classmates would want to go to a club or play board games made me feel really self-aware and awkward. Having those assumptions made about myself was even more uncomfortable as I don’t think I fit the mold of what many think of as social norms. Becoming that aware though is helping me learn to be more aware just in general, so I guess that’s a positive aspect. 

What’s so funny about mental illness?

            Although an intercultural issue, the stigma and attitude behind mental illness slips under many people’s radar as the serious problem it is. Ruby Wax’s “What’s so funny about mental illness?” (2012) TED Talk, she tackles the stigma while admitting that mental illness is too common an occurrence to simply remain uncomfortable with. With one in every four Americans having some kind of mental illness, ending the stigma and seeing mental illness as a brain disease must be effected to culturally progress.

            Wax (2012) began her argument by stating mental illness cannot be shown to others as a physical illness can. Rather than flowers or cards sent when one experiences or is diagnosed with the illness, Wax (2012) said awkward phone calls were made, telling her to simply perk up. She argued the illnesses are seen as an inconvenience because people cannot see where it hurts; therefore, it is more difficult to understand. This, Wax (2012) said, is much of the reason feelings of guilt and shame are experienced by those with the illnesses. They do not feel comfortable explaining themselves to others and know others might have it worse, so negative feelings are enhanced.

Wax (2012) then goes on to explain the difference between the ancient and modern man. The modern mind has not evolved from ancient man in regard to adrenaline. Wax (2012) explains that the brain coped in the sense of “kill or be killed,” but because the modern person cannot kill those making them feel threatened in their daily lives, there is no release of the adrenaline, which constantly puts the brain on alert because of it. Therefore, if society learns to evolve to not only become self-aware but to help those with mental illnesses cope, Wax (2012) agrees there can be progress. If mental illness is seen as the serious problem that it is, everyone can begin to learn to train their minds in coping.

One article, “Emotional clarity as a buffer in the association between perceived mental illness stigma and suicide risk,” by K. Wang, N. H. Weiss, J. E. Pachankis, and B. G. Link (2016), discusses that in order to fight the stigma, emotional clarity must be present. In the article, the relationship between the stigma and suicide risk severity with emotional clarity’s role was studied with individuals who were recently released from psychiatric hospitals. Those studied self-reported measures of the stigma when involved with their diagnoses, emotional clarity, and suicidal behavior. For those with less emotional clarity, the stigma was much of a contributor to suicide risk and ideation (Wang et al., 2016). Emotional clarity was key in getting past the stigma, so if Americans are being taught to practice this clarity, the levels in the stigma would decrease as well.

Another article by P. W. Corrigan and A. C. Watson (2004), “At issue: stop the stigma: call mental illness a brain disease,” argues that educating the public that mental illness is an actual disease is a start, but an approach is proposed to combat the various myths about mental illness with factual information in mandatory classes. A 25 percent chance of having a mental illness is too high to remain ignorant. The authors argue that calling mental illness a brain disease may encourage people to see how serious a diagnosis can be rather than something simple, inconvenient, or something to hide or be ashamed of (Corrigan & Watson, 2004).

Many other solutions could initiate the same needed change, but fighting the stigma, learning to cope, and making an education on the dangers of mental illness is an advanced start. It battles the idea that mental illness should be taboo. By putting it in perspective, mental illnesses can begin to be seen as less awkward, while also helping to train Americans’ minds to cope with the brain diseases that affect many more than they should.



Corrigan, P. W., & Watson, A. C. (2004). At issue: stop the stigma: call mental illness a brain disease. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 30(3), 477-479. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.schbul.a007095

Wang, K., Weiss, N. H., Pachankis, J. E., & Link, B. G. (2016). Emotional clarity as a buffer in the association between perceived mental illness stigma and suicide risk. Stigma And Health, 1(4), 252-262. doi:10.1037/sah0000032

Wax, R. (2012). What’s so funny about mental illness? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/ruby_wax_what_s_so_funny_about_mental_illness#t-481119



Thoughts on Privilege and the Activity

I was out of town Monday, so I missed the activity, but with privilege, I have found that I am much more confident in talking about it publicly now with others; it’s still pretty awkward to admit I have common privileges that others don’t have, but I have also realized I’m underprivileged in things I had never considered before. Because of that though, I can relate in things I am more privileged in and learn to be both an advocate AND an ally in different situations. I want to feel comfortable using my power to help people, and these last few weeks of class have exposed me to it enough that I feel like I can do that.


This week’s readings and activities were awkward as people were forced to recognize their privilege. Monday’s presentation with the headbands was a great visual, but the part that most stood out to me was when we had to get in a line and take steps forward and back to represent what privilege we had. To be honest, I have less privilege than I thought I did, but I still had much more than some of the students in the class. Being forced to participate in that I think was very uncomfortable because we can talk about our privilege objectively, but once it’s put out like that and we are physically showing how much we have, it was much more uncomfortable. 

As I read chapter 8 for my presentation, I found the idea of degrees within our privilege to be interesting because depending where we are, what we’re doing, and who we are with, our identity (and with it, our privilege) change. We adapt to be more or less privileged and maybe more or less aware with it. In our presentation, I was uncomfortable with the idea that some students said things that seemed a little ignorant to me, and I had a hard time just moving on from it. Maybe I shouldn’t have just moved on. But I did, and it was awkward anyway.

How does privilege affect me?

I never even considered the idea of privilege until I started college. My immediate community never discussed it, so it just never dawned on me. However, after becoming more aware of my surroundings, I have come to recognize I hold power over others solely for being a white Christian in the middle class.

I am not privileged because of my gender.  Based on national statistics, my salary will only be 74 cents to every man’s dollar, and I won’t be taken as seriously as a man is in my career. I have and will always be at the disadvantage when it comes to getting a job as I may have children, and I will always worry more than a man would when doing anything alone. But I am privileged in my socioeconomic class, my race, and my religion (at least in the US). I am in “the sweet spot” for living the classic American Dream as I have the funds to do so, I have advantages over those who are people of color as I am taken seriously in my dreams and am not as sexualized as (especially women) those people as well. Nobody will question my religious beliefs or try to convince me my religion is based around terrorism or other derogatory values. I have so many advantages, at least in this location, because I am part of the majority.

I recognize that I didn’t have a say in whether or  not I was born into being privileged, but my holding that power gives me the opportunity to have a voice for those who are underprivileged, and I want to be able to help fight for equality while doing what I can to end the stigma of people who do not have as much as me. I want to be able to use my privilege to others’ advantage rather than not dealing with the awkwardness of having it in the first place.

Cultural Self-Assessment

            Cultural identity never was a common topic of conversation for me in growing up as I have, for much of my life, been a part of the majority within my immediate community. In Utah, there is no part of me aside from being a woman that is a minority; my time in Las Vegas was a bit different than others as I may not have been the majority, but I was never aware of this as my parents were pretty set on keeping us sheltered. From what I understood, I was the same as everyone else. I never attended school in Las Vegas, even though I was there for most of my childhood, so I never experienced life outside of what my family chose to show me.  My parents created a bubble that showed my gender, religious, sexual, and racial identity as similar to everyone. My being in this “bubble,” however, made it very difficult when I did realize there are not only differences in identities, but injustices and privilege attached to those differences.

            My cultural identity, as I have come to understand it, in terms of socioeconomic class, gender, and race, emphasize my privilege in many ways. I come from a middle-class family, and although my siblings and I have been put on our own since turning 18, we were raised with enough financial stability that I had many more opportunities to still do decently on my own because I could prepare before turning 18 without having anything holding me back. Being cisgender, I classify as a woman and therefore have not faced as much discrimination as those who do not classify as the same as their birth sex do. I am also of the Caucasian race, which in Utah, is the majority, so I have never faced any form of real discernment while living here, nor did I while in Nevada. My religious identity is LDS as well, and in Utah and Nevada it is still a part of the majority. Needless to say, regarding my geographic location, I have had a pretty privileged life.

While living in Utah while growing up, I was in Morgan, Layton, and Beaver, all of which are not very big. During this time, my family would follow where my father was currently working much of the time, so I was in Las Vegas through each place. I was technically a Utah resident, but lived in Vegas for much of the time. In Utah, I did not come in contact with many people of a different culture from me, but in Las Vegas I did within my limited exposure to the culture, even though I did not realize it. My parents’ consistent telling me we were all the same and to treat people the same no matter the circumstance changed much of my view, but after looking back I can see those cultural differences.

Being a woman is one of the only categories in that I am considered a minority. I have not dealt too much with sexism, at least not yet, in my life, but I have felt it in a couple of circumstances. For example, I am the assistant opinions editor at the university newspaper, and I have experienced sexism from my editor from dealing with articles, to giving critiques. I have been fought on critiques I have given him up until another man is brought in to confirm my ideas, and I have been told to change articles I have written for no apparent reason; he refused to tell me any reasoning at all other than he did not like the opinion. There has not been anything of the stereotypical sexism, yet I have felt it through small instances such as these.

Much of sexism deals with where we are and in what context; it is present everywhere, but there are many places that I have learned have much more substance in the inequality than others. I have come to learn there are many differences between men and women and that, at least in my own life, many men (especially white men) have a feeling that they deserve things that further their comfort, whereas women are more likely to settle. To me, that is where the main issues of sexism stem from. Because men expect comfort and women settle, they are treated differently, and it is definitely a societal issue. Although I have not experienced it personally, I have seen the differences in salaries and otherwise that prove the inequality.

Men, just as women, obviously have different levels of intelligence depending on much more than gender, but I do not think one gender is more intelligent than others. Referring to the societal beliefs though, I do think men are perceived as more intelligent and more able, because of the innate confidence they are born into in the U.S. Perhaps values change, but I still believe that depends on more than gender. However, views such as “boys will be boys” is extremely dangerous as it can alter those values very quickly, both for men and women. The values change when one succumbs to that idea. Men definitely behave in a different way. Again, I attribute that to the societal confidence. If you are told you deserve more, even if you are not doing anything to earn that, I see it as much easier to maybe take that for advantage and to behave differently because consequences do not seem nearly as extreme. A perhaps extreme but too common of an example refers to female survivors of sexual assault that, when coming forward, are told not to do anything about it because, “He’s such a good guy. He really has a future and you shouldn’t risk that for him.”

Maybe it is because I am considered a minority because of my gender, but I have had many struggles with men in my worldview who embrace the patriarchy. It is not something that is easy to escape quite frankly, so I have just come to accept that while fighting for equality, I also need to be putting in that much more effort to get what I want—just so I have a chance to get as high as a man could in my career or otherwise.

Being a part of the middle socioeconomic class has given me plenty of opportunities. Sure, I have had to make my own way since moving from my parents, but I, as I said before, had enough resources to hit the ground running for when I was put on my own. The working class, on the other hand, may not have had those opportunities, and would have a much harder time than me.

I remember one day in the fifth grade while talking about socioeconomic learning from those I went to school with who were also in the middle class that the working class was uneducated, dirty, and poor. That idea stuck with me for a long time, and I recall feeling very bothered by it. As I have gotten older I have been able to see that lower income does not deem one as dirty or poor, but it does emphasize the idea of less opportunity for those people. I have a hard time knowing exactly of my privilege, but I know enough that I can see my life is much easier than theirs in that much more is handed to me than it is to them.

A popular topic is referring to the working class as unintelligent. Perhaps this is based on the idea that they do not have higher education, but a lack of degree does not mean one is inane. My parents did not attend college, but they are extremely intelligent and logical people. My mom can make sense of numbers and formulas, while my dad has an innate idea of how to design and build essentially anything, and it is the same for those in the working class.

Values in priority may be different for the working class as they have to fight for what they want much more than the middle and upper classes, but I think as for morals, they are the same. In Layton, we lived in a low-income apartment complex, but those people had strong values, with or without religion. They took care of my mom, who was taking care of all five children under the age of 12 as my dad did not live with us for much of my childhood. Our apartment complex created unity with my mom, and although they were a part of the working class, their values of taking care of each other saved my mom much anxiety.

The working class may have a behavior more based on survival rather than comfort, but I have not noticed much other difference than that. Perhaps I am just being ignorant because of my privilege as a middle-class person, but again, lower income does not instigate anything other than that of less opportunity. They have been part of my worldview as I have always been surrounded by those in the working class. They took care of us, so I have been taught to then take care of them, not because they are to be pitied, but because everyone can use some kind of help.

Regarding men, I have gotten my ideas from the media, the people who helped raise me, and from personal experience. I know everything is not what it seems, but I have a difficult time seeing at least white men as differently than the way I described above. However, I think the media is the main source for my reasoning other than the personal experiences I explained. The media had an influence in both encouraging the patriarchy and encouraging the fight against it. Especially in older films, books, and news sources, men were seen as heroes while women were there only for support. Men were to fight for what they wanted while the women “fulfilled their duty” in being mothers and taking care of the children at home. Men were to be the bread winners while women were to be compliant in not getting an education. Now, media is better about putting things to fight the patriarchy, but for the most part it still pertains to the same ideology. It is hard to break the societal mold, and therefore, the subtle connotations that men deserve more than women still remains, which does nothing to help the fight for equality.

With the working class, I gained my negative and positive ideologies through knowing people of the different classes. I think my main sources of positive knowledge was from living with people of the working class, as I saw a lot of good from those in the working class, but my negative, although it included personal experience, is mostly from films and other media. Films often portray the working class as uneducated and oftentimes, sad, and for some reason they are pitied or are ignored to avoid confrontation of the issues at hand. Some films and television shows use satire to present the working class, but I think even that sometimes makes for a mistake in that not everyone gets the satire. The Office for example has the boundaries between the warehouse guys and the salesmen, and although elusive, I think it makes an important comment on the differences and privileges of workers. However, some think the show is just a joke, and it furthers their ideas of the working class. The negative connotations of being in the working class is wrong, but there is such a universal idea of the dirty and unintelligent people that it is very hard to beat. However, pitying them is not the answer. To be honest, I do not know how to change the differences of classes, but changing our ideas of the classes would be an honorable start.

Some areas of interest that I would like to know more about with intercultural communication are if there are any solutions to either closing the gaps between socioeconomic classes or inequalities in identities, how cultural identities can not only combine to make a complex person in enculturation but to make complex communities, and the ways a strong personal identity can further interpenetration rather than breaking into fragmented identities. I think these concepts are vital in creating a better society, but all of it seems a bit out of reach for one person, and I would just want to know how to help in any way I can.

By the end of the class, if I could just figure how to handle the above situations and to realize my privilege more fully so I can actually contribute positively to other cultures, I would be content with the semester. I so badly want to be able to help in everyday situations but also in traumatic ones, and I think becoming self-aware of where I stand culturally would help me to do that because I then could see the gaps in identities. Instead of smothering another’s identity, I want to be able to help it flourish; so if this class can help me achieve a start on how to do that, I can hopefully figure out the rest.

Thoughts on the semester and Adonica Limon’s video

At the beginning of the semester, I felt excited to learn the content of the class, but I really didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to learn about barriers in culture as well as bridges to cultures, but I ultimately took the class because I needed to. Now I am excited as I am getting the hands-on experience with refugees, I’m learning about different cultures, and I am becoming more enlightened on my own privilege by learning of those who are not. Although the conversation can be awkward, I want to be aware of it so I can learn how to better be an ally, and so far I think this class is helping me to realize how to do that.

Adonica Limon’s video was an excellent example in emphasizing a person that was not privileged in any way. Her coming from different cultures already put her in a minority category, regardless of where she is. Her being a foster child, having an abusive husband, and the incentive that brought her to go to college without any knowledge of how to do so also showcased this. Yet, like in chapter 6’s examples of breaking stereotypes, Adonica did so. She had a lot of predispositions about what her identity in culture and social circumstances should be, yet she proceeded to break the stereotypes, put herself through school, and stay successful. She negotiated her identity and still is as she continues to go through school so she can personally feel like she’s become enough. I found it interesting when she mentioned she wanted to be content as I think it has much to do with her being a minority. She has an idea of what will be successful, and had to defy everything to decide to do that for herself. Honestly, she’s inspirational.