2023 SCREENSHOT: Asia Film Festival Preparation Begins

By Madison Pleins, SCREENSHOT: Asia Intern

Preparations for the annual SCREENSHOT: Asia Film Festival have begun!

The SCREENSHOT team is currently viewing films made by directors all across Asia, looking to choose which ones will be brought to the University of Pittsburgh in the fall. While the team will view numerous incredibly crafted films, only roughly ten will be shown to the Pitt community as part of the festival. When choosing a film, the screening committee looks for engaging stories that provide insight into Asia and Asian culture that have not yet had a theatrical release in Pittsburgh. The SCREENSHOT: Asia Film Festival Coordinator Kirsten Strayer also notes that it is important to choose films with a variety of stories. “We select films based on which countries they come from, and we like films that are different from one another. We’re looking for films that speak to contemporary issues or bring up questions that we think will spark interest for our audience.”

            The role of the screening committee is crucial to putting together programming that is exciting for the Pitt community. Those interested in screening for the festival sign up to gain access to a spreadsheet which contains links to previews of the potential films for the festival. As the SCREENSHOT: Asia Film Festival intern, one of my primary responsibilities in the spring is locating potential films and contacting those who are in charge of them to receive access to previews. Once the film has been viewed, screeners write their comments and consider whether they would recommend the film for a festival screening at Pitt.

If you enjoy viewing films and are interested in participating in the decision making process for the 2023 SCREENSHOT: Asia Film Festival, please email the SCREENSHOT: Asia Intern, Madison Pleins, at mlp112@pitt.edu.


2023 Asia Challenge Simulation

By Bill Kramer, Global Asia Intern

On Wednesday, February 22nd, the Third Annual Asia Challenge was held in the William Pitt Student Union. After being held virtually for the first two years, the University of Pittsburgh and the Asian Studies Center was happy to hold the event in-person for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Over 60 high school students from several Pittsburgh area schools arrived early in the morning to take part in the Model UN-type event. Students, either as a pair or individually, represented one of the 15 countries (plus guest country India, which is not an actual RCEP member) in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a political and economic bloc comprised of countries in South, Southeast, East Asia, and the Indo Pacific region. The students were divided up and sent to 3 different rooms within the WPU to begin the simulation. Each room had an ASC staff member to make sure things went smoothly, a secretary to keep speaking times and to help as needed, and a President to run and direct the simulation.  

I was lucky enough to be the President for Room 2. As this was my first time being a President in a Model UN- styled simulation, I was initially nervous; however, my anxiousness subsided as the simulation began and the debate heated up. The Asia Challenge was split into a morning and afternoon session with the morning session being about the Covid-19 pandemic and the afternoon session handling China-Taiwan tensions. The high school students in my room were energetic, enthusiastic, and worked well together to create and pass resolutions to solve issues. After the afternoon session, awards were handed out to students from each room for the best delegations and best position papers. The 3rd Annual Asia Challenge went off without a hitch due to the tireless efforts of ASC staff, interns, and other volunteers. The simulation was a fantastic experience for me personally, one I will not forget. I am positive that the high school students got just as much out of it as I did, gaining key academic and interpersonal skills, as well as knowledge about Asia that they will use in their careers. Hopefully this will foster in them an academic and personal interest in Asia in their futures. 

Exchange vs Summer Study Abroad Programs in South Korea 

By Abby Lombardi, Global Ambassador Intern

Thanks to funding from the Asian Studies Center, I had the opportunity to study abroad in South Korea from January to August. I am honored to have been awarded the FLAS Fellowship and POSCO Scholarship in Korean Studies to cover the costs. I participated in both the exchange student program and summer program offered at Yonsei University. These programs are similar to those at other universities, namely Korea University and Seoul National University. While both exchange and summer programs in South Korea are offered by the Pitt Global Experiences Office, they provide different benefits and drawbacks.  

Program Structure 

The most obvious difference between the two programs is length. A typical semester at Yonsei University during the academic year spans approximately four months, while the Yonsei International Summer School program spans two months. If you are hoping to exchange in South Korea for the spring, please keep in mind that spring semesters typically start in late February or early March. The exchange program is more academically demanding. Most students will enroll in four to five courses, which means the majority of your free time will be concentrated on the weekends. The summer programs only require you to take at least one course, providing more free time throughout the week. Many students choose to take a morning class so that they may explore during the weekday afternoons. Considering the outstanding transportation system and sunny weather, it is especially easy to take local and domestic trips while attending the summer program. Some of my favorite summer memories were visiting Chinatown in the city of Incheon and beautiful Jeju Island! 


The exchange program offers a more diverse selection of courses. You can take courses in English with other international students, courses in English with a mix of international and domestic students, or courses in Korean with domestic students. There are also intensive Korean language courses, which can meet 6-20 hours per week depending on the university. I wanted to challenge myself by taking courses in Korean alongside domestic students during the spring semester. My language skills improved significantly from being immersed in lectures conducted fully in Korean. Please keep in mind that course registration at most South Korean universities operates on a point-bidding system or a rapid first-come first-serve basis. I highly recommend researching strategies for course enrollment at your host university beforehand. I came across many exchange students who were not able to enroll in their most desired courses as they did not fully understand the system. 

At the Yonsei International Summer School, you can take one to three courses. All courses, except the Korean language courses, are taught in English. The program offers the opportunity to apply for an internship, which counts as one course. The courses are limited to certain subjects and are only open to international students. Therefore, there is much less competition during course enrollment as compared to the academic year. I chose to enroll in only one course, which made the process even easier. I recommend applying to the program early so that you may participate in the first round of course enrollment, which was in early May this year. Generally, international summer program courses are less academically challenging than exchange semester courses. I rarely spent time outside of my class working on homework. However, I expect the workload may vary depending on the number of courses and content. 

Student Life 

At Yonsei University, you have the opportunity to stay in a dormitory during both programs. However, visiting international students stay in separate dormitories from domestic students. During the fall and spring semesters, you can join student organizations. Please keep in mind that you must apply to be accepted into student organizations, as early as one month before the semester starts. You can also sign-up to meet with a student mentor or language exchange partner. There are annual spring school festivals, which feature free performances from K-pop idols. I had a wonderful time visiting Korea University’s festival with a friend to see the girl group Aespa perform. The summer program does not provide these opportunities, but it does offer field trips. This year, the Yonsei International Summer School held trips to places such as the DMZ and Ocean World. The summer program makes it more difficult for international students to meet domestic students as most are not on campus at the time. However, the visiting international students bond with each other. Overall, the exchange program made me feel more connected to the local school community. 


If you are planning to study abroad in South Korea, I hope you will consider these three key differences between the exchange and summer programs. Overall, I found that the exchange program allowed me to improve my language skills and feel more immersed in the school community, while the summer program provided me with more time and flexibility to explore Korea. I am extremely grateful for the countless memories and lessons that I gained from studying at Yonsei University! 

Tour of Classic Korean Dishes

By Maddy DeLosa, English Communications Intern

This past summer I had the remarkable opportunity to study abroad at Yonsei University (연세대학교) in Seoul, South Korea. In part funded by the Asian Studies Center, I was able to take classes that counted towards my general education major requirements while also being immersed in the Korean culture. From K-pop concerts, to attractions, fashion, and the nightlife, one of the most memorable aspects of Korea was undoubtedly the food.

Korean dishes are known to be extremely healthy. They incorporate a variety of colorful ingredients and often contain numerous vegetables. Such health-conscious practices stem from a strong agricultural background and people’s overall value of health. Korean dishes are also often served with 반찬 or side dishes. Examples include seasoned soybean sprouts (콩나물 무침), seasoned spinach (시금치나물), braised potatoes (감자조림), and spicy cucumber salad (오이무침). Out of all, however, the most famous side dish is kimchi (김치). No matter what was on the lunch menu at the Yonsei cafeteria, there were always places to scoop out a hefty serving or two of this Korean staple. Kimchi is made by fermenting vegetables, often Nappa cabbage and Korean radish, with Korean chili pepper (고추가루), spring onions, garlic, ginger, and salted seafoods (젓갈). It has a characteristic tangy, pungent taste, but is great in combination with main Korean foods.

The following are some of my favorite dishes I tried while abroad in Korea that I definitely recommend if you ever have the chance to try, as well.

1.) Samgyetang (삼계탕) – Ginseng Chicken Soup. This is a hot, steaming, delicious dish featuring a chicken stuffed with rice, ginseng, garlic and jujube. It is traditionally eaten during the hottest days of summer as a way to keep up energy and balance body temperature with the weather outside. A friend and I were able to try this at Tosokchon  (토속촌), a famous restaurant known for their ginseng chicken soup – so much so that the late president Roh Moo-Hyun frequented it.  

2.) Dak-galbi (닭갈비) – Korean Spicy Chicken Stir Fry. This was one of my ultimate favorites while in Korea. It’s a great feel-good food comparable to American mac and cheese. It’s made by stir frying spicy chicken in a red pepper-based sauce alongside cabbage, scallions, rice cake and other ingredients.  

3.) KBBQ – Korean Barbeque. KBBQ restaurants are notably the best places to go with a group of friends to jumpstart the weekend or after a long day. You grill the meat yourself and can mix things up with the various side dishes provided. Similar to Dak-galbi, you cook the food yourself so it is often very fresh and sizzling off the grill.

4.) Seafood in Busan. Right by the coast, Busan offers numerous savory, fresh dishes that come straight from the ocean. I’m usually not a huge seafood fan but after trying what’s in Busan, I think I’ve been converted. Some popular dishes include Ganjang-gejang (간장계장) crab marinated in soy sauce, and Jangeo-gui (장어구이) grilled eel.

5.) Fried Chicken. Many people love to gather at the Han River with this classic to hang out and take in the bike riders, people and water. It’s eaten picnic-style, often with ramen that can easily be picked up at a nearby convenience store and made at a hot water station.  

Some additional tasty dishes in Korea that I also loved was the dessert bingsu (빙수), Korean pancake (전), steamed egg (계란찜), all the café desserts, and of course kimbap (김밮) from 7 Eleven.

2022 SCREENSHOT: Asia Film Festival  

By Madison Pleins, SCREENSHOT: Asia Intern

The second annual SCREENSHOT: Asia Film Festival took place from September 28th to October 2nd. Students, faculty, and members of the Pitt community gathered in auditoriums across Pitt’s campus and in the Pittsburgh Cultural District to share and experience Asian and Asian American Culture through film. Eleven films were shown in just a few days celebrating the powerful artistic medium of film and creating a space in the Pitt Community to engage with Asia.  

As the SCREENSHOT: Asia Film Festival Intern for the past year and a half, I have had the unique opportunity to be part of the planning and execution of the 2022 festival from the very start. During the spring semester of 2022, I was involved in organizing and communicating with the screeners who were responsible for assisting in choosing the films, reaching out to directors, distributors, and production companies, and researching films by Asian storytellers and various film festivals. These are just a few of the tasks I took part in to prepare for the festival. When the fall semester rolled around, the Asian Studies Center was putting final touches on the preparations leading up to opening night. 

On the second day of the festival, Screenshot: Asia celebrated the Japan Documentary Film Award which recognizes an outstanding filmmaker for a project they may submit to the competition. The award was given to director Mizuko Yamaoka for her film, Maelstrom. Yamaoka and her sister traveled to Pitt from Japan to participate in a reception, ceremony, and screening of the film.  

It was incredible to see the impact the 2022 SCREENSHOT: Asia Film Festival had on the Pitt community and the SCREENSHOT team is looking forward to bringing more programming to campus throughout the rest of the fall and spring terms.  

Summer Internship with the U.S. Commercial Service 

By Bill Kramer, Global Asia Intern

One of the graduation requirements for GSPIA students is that they must complete a 300-hour internship in a field relevant to their studies. I was fortunate to receive an internship offer from the U.S. Commercial Service over the summer which dovetailed nicely with my studies of international trade and international political economy. The U.S. Commercial Service is a federal governmental organization whose primary mission is to assist and consult with American companies to export their goods and services around the globe. I worked with the Pittsburgh office remotely. 

My work consisted of ad hoc projects such as following up on trade leads, matching Western PA companies with potential overseas markets, and doing trade research on timely issues such as fertilizer which has been in limited global supply due to the Russia-Ukraine War. Most of these projects were short-term; however, I had one long-term project that took up most of my time as an intern. I worked closely with two senior trade specialists, one in the Pittsburgh office and one in the Kansas City office, to organize and execute an educational trade mission to India. International students that attend US colleges and universities count as an export for higher-ed institutions, a sector of the American economy worth billions. Universities such as Pitt, Penn State, and about a dozen others, dramatically ranging in size, who were interested in increasing the numbers of foreign students from India attending their institutions signed up to join the trade mission. The trade mission happened in mid-September and stopped in 4 cities: Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, and Hyderabad, and was attended by Indian businesses, parents and students, recruiting agents, and banking institutions looking to enter the student loan market, a new development in the Indian education sector. Finally, the governor of Maharashtra, a large state in India with Mumbai as its major city, hosted the start of the educational trade mission and its various events and student fairs. 

My summer internship proved to be a great and unique experience to combine my graduate studies in international trade with my work with Pitt’s Asian Studies Center. 

Welcome 2022-2023 Asian Studies Center Interns

Featured from left to right are Madeline DeLosa, Bill Kramer, Madison Pleins, and Abby Lombardi.

The Asian Studies Center is delighted to welcome a new cohort of interns for the 2022-2023 academic year. While each intern is pursuing differing academic paths, they all share a passion for and dedication to Asian Studies. We’d like to take a moment to get to know each of the interns that will be working towards a successful 2022-2023 academic year.  

Meet Bill Kramer, The Global Asia Intern 

Hi, I am Bill and this is my second year working with ASC. I am a second-year grad student at GSPIA where I am pursuing a Masters in Public and International Affairs. I am majoring in International Political Economy with a minor in Human Security. Additionally, I am working towards the Graduate Certificate in Asian Studies. 

Over the Summer I visited Naples, Italy with my girlfriend to eat pizza and visit Pompeii. 

I am excited to work at ASC, because the staff and faculty are incredible, and it helps me pursue my academic, personal, and professional interest in Asian Studies, namely Chinese International Political Economy. 

Meet Abby Lombardi, The Global Ambassador Intern  

Hello, my name is Abby. I am so excited to be the Global Ambassador Intern this year. I am a senior majoring in Media & Professional Communications. I am also pursuing an Asian Studies Certificate and minors in Linguistics and Korean. In addition to my involvement with the ASC, I am a Global Ties Mentor for new international students and the president of the Daehwa Korean Conversation Club. I just returned from studying abroad in South Korea for the past eight months, and my favorite memory from this summer was visiting beautiful Jeju Island. I am very grateful to the ASC for funding my study abroad experience. The ASC has shaped my college career with many other amazing opportunities, from attending a Japanese Coming-of-Age ceremony to learning about Chinese soft power in Africa and more. I want to bring the ASC to other students’ attention so that they may also take advantage of new opportunities! 

Meet Madeline DeLosa, The English Language Communications Intern 

Hi, my name’s Maddy! I’m a senior Molecular Biology Major on the pre-Physician’s Assistant track minoring in Korean, Chinese, Chemistry and pursuing an East Asian Studies Certificate. This is my second year working within the Asian Studies Center and I couldn’t be more thrilled to advertise events to the student body and facilitate engagement in the center. The staff at ASC has truly allowed me to further my interest in Asian studies exploration not only through work but also via outside avenues such as scholarships, study abroad opportunities, and networking. Like my close friend Abby, I am also fortunate to have had the ability to travel to South Korea this summer and study at Yonsei’s International Summer Program where I participated in cultural traditions, social events, and met lifelong friends. A dear summer memory for me was hiking 북한산 and celebrating a friend’s birthday at the Han River. In addition to my time at ASC, I tutor with the Study Lab, am on the board for Daehwa Korean Conversation Club, and volunteer with the H.E.L.P department at West Penn Hospital.  

Meet Madison Pleins, The Screenshot: ASIA Intern  

Hi! My name is Madison Pleins, and I am the SCREENSHOT: Asia Film Festival Intern for the second year. As the SCREENSHOT: Intern, I primarily work on videography, photography, editing, and organization in preparation for the festival. The 2022 festival will take place this fall September 28th-October 2nd. I am a junior undergraduate majoring in Film and Media Studies, minoring in Political Science, and pursuing certificates in Broadcast Television and Transnational Asia. I am very excited to return to the Asian Studies Center as an Intern this year and am looking forward to learning, watching, and experiencing Asian and Asian American culture and art through the second annual film festival. My interest in the Asian Studies Center stems from my passion to learn about other cultures through film. I was introduced to this opportunity through a professor at the end of my freshmen year and am thrilled to be part of such an incredible organization that works on thoughtful and meaningful projects associated with the sharing of Asian art and culture.  

I am a Squad Leader for the Piccolo Section of the Pitt Varsity Marching Band and the Spirit and Traditions Committee Head of the Varsity Marching Band Council. This past summer, I received funding through Pitt’s Office of Undergraduate Research, and I am currently developing an Alternate Reality Game that will launch to Pitt’s Campus in the spring of 2023. Aside from working on that project, I also spent the summer paddle boarding with my dog, visiting my favorite amusement park, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and I went to Pittsburgh’s Tekko Con at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. 

Dr. Alter, ASC Director, named Editor for the Journal of Asian Studies

By Bill Kramer, Global Asia Intern

For many academics, especially those affiliated with a top-ranked research institution such as the University of Pittsburgh, being involved in the publication of an academic journal is a major accomplishment. So, in July of this year, when he was named the Editor for the Journal of Asian Studies, it was a high personal honor for Dr. Joseph Alter, the Director of the Pitt Asian Studies Center. I had a conversation with Dr. Alter where he graciously told me more about the journal and answered a few other questions. 

The Journal of Asian Studies, or JAS, is the premier peer-reviewed academic journal for the field of Asian studies and is the primary organ for the Association for Asian Studies. The journal was founded in 1941 as the Far Eastern Quarterly, but the scope and focus of the journal has shifted over time along with the changing nature of Asian studies and especially recently as Asia continues to play a bigger and bigger role in global affairs, a term Dr. Alter calls “Global Asia.” Indeed this “Global Asia”, or the growing impact that Asia, in particular the developing countries of China and India and the cultural exporters of Japan and South Korea, is what Dr. Alter would like his 5-year term as editor to focus on. Dr. Alter said that he is seeking to publish papers and academics that tackle this topic regarding the new and profound ways that Asia interacts with the rest of the world, and vice versa. 

During my talk with Dr. Alter, one thing that he stressed to me is that while being named Editor for the JAS is a personal honor, it is also a big responsibility that he takes extremely seriously. Due in large part to his editorial predecessors, the JAS is a well-known and well-run academic journal that has a reputation for being the foremost journal regarding Asian studies. Dr. Alter also talked in-depth about the challenges that he will face as an editor for a membership-based publication. As more and more journals become open-access rather than subscription-based, journal editors must adapt to the changing technologies and continuously improve their publications to keep their readership willing to pay, a process that hinges on making sure that the journal is as good of a publication as possible and worth reading. Dr. Alter also readily shared that this is also an honor for the ASC and the University of Pittsburgh as a whole. As both the Director of ASC and the Editor of the JAS, he hopes this prestigious position will help to elevate the Center and the University, bringing in new resources and new academic collaborators. 

As editor, Dr. Alter said that he would continue to advocate for policies and highlight papers and books that meet and surpass the high bar for quality that has come to be expected from the JAS. There are two policy priorities that Dr. Alter seeks to put forth during his tenure. The first is that he wants to have more papers submitted and published by authors from Asia, especially the often-overlooked countries. Relevant to this point, his second policy regards publishing topics that deal with these lesser-known countries and topics that are often excluded from other journals. 

I welcome everyone to congratulate Dr. Alter on this wonderful accomplishment and to wish him all the best during his tenure as Editor for the Journal of Asian Studies. 

The Pitt to You Program Fosters Support and Community for Incoming International Students

By Yue He, Chinese Language Communications Intern

The Pitt to You program was established in 2017 to help international students overcome the cultural and academic challenges of studying at an American university. Organized by the Asian Studies Center, Residence Life, Office of International Services, Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, and the Cross Cultural and Leadership Development, Pitt to You brings together a team of dedicated students and professionals. The program includes both a Welcome to Pitt summer workshop as well as participation in a cross-cultural Fall class designed to assist recent high school graduates from East Asia to integrate into collegiate life. Since its creation, Pitt to You has helped hundreds of incoming students navigate the rigors, pressures, and joys of being at one of the best universities in the US. Hail to Pitt! 


Jessica Batoussi Health Services, Minor in Africana Studies 

Christopher Chow Economics & Psychology, Minor in Political Science

Interview Q&A: 

  1. Introduce yourself 

Jessica: Hello! I am Jessica Batoussi and am a sophomore majoring in Health Services with a minor in Africana Studies. I am interested in the intersection of healthcare, multiculturalism, and social issues. I am determined to improve health equity for minority groups around the world, and have conducted research in neglected tropical diseases through Pitt’s History Department. Additionally on campus, I am a peer facilitator for the Panther Leadership Academy, a mentor with the American Medical Student Association, and the co-founder of a public health club. In my spare time, I enjoy dancing, cooking, and exploring the city. I was honored to be an ambassador for Pitt to You and am excited to welcome incoming students to the University of Pittsburgh! 

Christopher: Hello! My name is Chris Chow and I am currently a junior studying economics and psychology with a minor in political science, on the pre-law track. I’m originally from Boston, Massachusetts, and enjoy watching Boston-area sports games, listening to pop music, watching TikTok, and exploring new places! On campus, I’m the president and co-founder of the Cantonese Student Association at Pitt and am active in AQUARIUS and Phi Alpha Delta, a pre-law fraternity. I’m passionate about politics, social justice, and law and even got the chance to intern with a member of Congress. Overall, I really looked forward to the Pitt to You Program and the chance to meet everyone! 

  1. Why did you choose to be a Pitt to You ambassador? 

Jessica: I am really interested in cultures other than my own. I grew up in an immigrant family, so I relate to the experiences of meeting people different than yourself. Particularly, I wanted to learn more about East Asia as I do not have much experience with it. I saw the program as a great way to learn about the culture and to also teach international students things about our home in Pittsburgh. I believed this would be a profound social and learning opportunity.  

Christopher: I aspired to be an Ambassador because I wanted to be able to engage more with the international community and to also strengthen my connection with Asian culture as my own heritage is Chinese and Cantonese American.   

  1. In what ways did the pandemic influence this year’s Pitt to You program? 

Jessica: Unfortunately, we were unable to travel to South Korea this year due to the pandemic. All of our in-person activities were also move online via Zoom, Teams, and other various platforms. While we weren’t able to physically meet the international students, we were still able to get to know them, teach them about Pitt and also learn from them! There may not have been actual physical contact, but we were still able to get the program done efficiently. 

Christopher: I definitely think the pandemic impacted Pitt to You a lot. I was also a part of program last year where we had originally planned to meet students in Beijing and Shanghai. Similar to this year with our initial intention to visit South Korea, the pandemic limited our abilities to travel overseas. I this this change to the Program’s main form of communication to online didn’t allow for as much of a physical connection. I felt we needed to make more strides, and give more of an effort to connect. The separation admittedly was hard. However, despite the setbacks, we’ve still been trying hard to get to know the international students more. I feel that now since we are back on campus, with many activities returning to in-person the connections are strengthening and I am glad for this.

  1. Please describe your experience with Pitt to You and the international students involved.  

Jessica: Pitt to you in its entirety has been amazing and I am very honored to be able to talk to so many new students coming to Pitt! They’re intelligent, funny, and all-around cool people to be around. The program has opened my eyes more to their culture. I’ve learned a great deal, and don’t think I would know as much as I do now if it weren’t for Pitt to You.  

Christopher: I definitely agree that the program is eye-opening as we get to hear what their experiences were like firsthand back in Asia. Learning of their culture right from the students is an can’t be replicated in a informative post. All the student’s stories were different – I found some went to high school in the US, and others in Asia. I feel that I don’t hear of international students who had attended high school in the U.S. as often so it was really interesting to hear what they had to say and learn more about their past. The international students’ perspective was nice especially now with the pandemic as we are restricted to our homes and cannot freely explore other countries and their cultures outside of the U.S.  

  1. What do you think are the biggest hurdles or difficulties faced by international students when they come to the U.S.? 

Jessica: From talking to the students, it seems as though the structure of school is different in the U.S. compared to Asia. They say the way you learn is different from their country’s high schools and colleges. They mentioned the pace at Pitt being a bit faster and incorporates more projects. However, while the teaching style between the two countries may. Be different they have all adapted really well and are doing well in their classes from what we have heard!  

Christopher: I think one of the biggest challenges for them is the definitely the English barrier. The Chinese language very different from English and transitioning can be a big adjustment. They aren’t just using English to communicate in the classrooms but also just on street, or even ordering for. However, that is why the Pitt to You program was created – help better bridge that transition period and make the transition as smooth and comfortable as possible! In this way there is less of a culture shock and the students have a support system to help them with the challenges of college they will face.  

  1. Did working with international students change your view of the world? 

Jessica: I would say yes, working with international students did change my view of the world. Learning about a country from the actual students who lived there is very different from learning about it via a news outlet or the internet. You so many more details and cool aspects of the culture from the people who lived through them and have memories of them. If I didn’t meet these people myself, I think my perception of it would not be as complete as it is now. It opened my eyes to more possibilities about the culture that I didn’t know before. 

Christopher: As I have had previous experiences working with international students, for instance in high school with exchange programs, it was not totally transformative of my view, but rather added more to it! I am also Chinese, so I do have a preemptive understanding about what life is like in Asia. Furthermore, it hasn’t completely changed my view but exposed me to more of the culture.  

  1. Do you have any advice for future ambassadors? 

Jessica: I would advise all future ambassadors to come into the program with an open mind. Be aware that people are different than you and that’s okay! Be willing to learn as well.  The program is not just you teaching. Others, but a two-way street of you each learning from and teaching one another. Be open to making new friends, be willing to be a sort of navigator and ready to learn new cultures. I’m very happy I took part in the program and I’m sure you will like it too!  

Christopher: I agree with Jessica – I would also say come in with an open mind. You have to be able to be flexible as things may not pan out as expected, like this year as we could not travel to Asia. It’s also important to be patient and understand that some people might not be able to understand your point due to cultural differences.  

The Asian Studies Center Welcomes Samantha Sodetz

By Madeline DeLosa, English Language Communications Intern

Among its many endeavors, the Asian Studies Center focuses on outreach, education, and community engagement with different facets of Asian culture. Toward this end, the Center recently welcomed Samantha Sodetz as the Japanese Studies Program Assistant. Samantha attended the University of Florida for her Bachelors in Linguistics and Foreign Language Education. Samantha initially became interested in Japanese studies after taking Japanese classes for her school’s general education language requirement. She then realized that she’d like to pursue a career that incorporated both language and education. During her time as an undergraduate student, she was heavily involved in East-Asian cultural studies as she taught English part-time to non-native speakers and traveled to Japan on study abroad. She also took part in research regarding Parental Leave Policy in Japan after graduating and worked a great deal in the country after.   While in Japan, Samantha also did translation work and ran a student exchange program between schools in Japan and schools in her home state of Florida. Both further solidified her desire to dedicate herself to the world language and educational fields. 

In sharing passions and memories from her time outside the U.S., Samantha stated her first-time visiting Japan, or any foreign country, was during a homestay back in 2015. At the time, she had little knowledge on the culture and language, yet found unique ways to communicate and navigate around a new place. After the 2-week cultural immersion, she described feeling culture shock, yet also having had this amazingly memorable opportunity to experience something unique and different from her home.  

Here at the Asian Studies Center, Samantha was heavily involved in the processes of assisting with the Asian Studies Center’s first SCREENSHOT: Asia film festival. She has also been an integral part of assisting with the planning and event logistics of Asian Studies Center programs and events including the Asia Now Fall Lecture Series. As a part of the Center, she aspires to assist in developing quality events, grow in her marketing and outreach capabilities and get more people interested in Asian culture. Samantha states her position has been similar in many ways to her previous job in Japan, allowing her to incorporate aspects of outreach and planning from Japan into Pitt.  

The Asian Studies Center is delighted to have Samantha join and is looking forward to the ways she will implement her own skills and further strengthen the center’s existing projects.  

The Asia Now Series on Globalization of Asia

By Bill Kramer, Graduate Global Asia Intern

I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with Dr. Alter to discuss a project that he started organizing over a year and a half ago. The lecture series brings in professors from different universities to present on topics in which they focus their research and specialization. The lecture series is connected to a class that meets twice a week. During the first class of the week, students attend the lecture, and in the second, students meet in small groups to discuss the presentation. The Asia Now Lecture Series, now with several lectures under its belt, was formulated at the start of the coronavirus’s spread. The lecture series is a consequence of the pandemic in two ways. First, Asia is critical to understanding how the world is changing as a single entity now, and Dr. Alter saw this lecture series as an important measure to fill a gap in the curriculum. Second, the Asia Now Lecture Series was a realization that online and hybrid learning technologies can be a great boon both to how students learn, and professors teach. For many students, online Zoom classes have been a struggle; however, the Asia Now Lecture Series can serve as a template to show the correct way to use technology for learning. 

I attended a lecture on September 28th by Dr. Maria Repnikova of Georgia State University, introduced by Pitt’s Dr. Iza Ding, on “The Fragmented Spectacle of Chinese Soft Power in Africa.” I was struck by two things when I attended the lecture which is open to all Pitt students, faculty, and staff free-of-charge. First, the technology on display is incredible: massive HD TVs, automatically panning cameras, and microphones suspended from the ceiling. I can personally confirm that technology can be a great aid in teaching when used correctly; I was fully engrossed. The second major thing I was surprised by was both the quantity and quality of the questions being asked by students, several of whom were not experienced in Asian politics, culture, or history. There were a dozen questions, all of which were thoughtful and critically interacted with the material that was presented.  

When I asked Dr. Alter what he would like to get out of this lecture series and how he would measure the series to be a success, he expressed a desire for the Asia Now Lecture Series and the course to become a constant and critical part of the Pitt curriculum, as well as helping students of varying disciplines to become interested and interact with all Asia related courses. Dr. Alter also seeks to more closely join the Asian Studies Center to the various Pitt schools and departments for closer collaboration of class offerings and events. 

I strongly recommend that readers go attend any upcoming lectures that pique your interests. 

SCREENSHOT: Asia’s First Annual Film Festival

By Madison Pleins, SCREENSHOT: Asia Intern

After almost two years of planning and preparation, the combined efforts of the Asian Studies Center and the Film and Media Studies program are bringing to life the SCREENSHOT: Asia Film Festival. The five-day festival will be filled with 12 screenings of both feature and short films from Asian and Asian American filmmakers including films from Iran, South Korea, Japan, and Nepal. It will take place on October 6th-10th at various locations indoors and outdoors, both on and off the University of Pittsburgh campus for the Pitt community and the public alike. There will also be guest appearances by some of the filmmakers. The festival celebrates diversity, art, and culture through the powerful visual medium of film. 

There are many moving parts that must fit together for a film festival to occur. For example, venues need to be chosen, filmmakers have to be contacted, and technology must be running smoothly. Bringing these components together would be impossible without the leadership team at the Asian Studies Center who have been working to finalize each and every detail.  

After spending a year virtually, the Asian Studies Center is excited to hold more in-person programming like the SCREENSHOT: Asia Film Festival. Of course, safety precautions are still in place, including social distancing and masking while attending the screenings, but these precautions make it possible for us to once again, come together and celebrate culture in a public space. We are looking forward to the festival and cannot wait to share all of the hard work and artistry that has gone into it.