Mastering Cultural Fluency

Hi everyone, my name is Katherine Cabrera and I am a senior at Florida International University majoring in Psychology. The Gilman Scholarship provided me with the means to study abroad in Surabaya, Indonesia last summer, 2019, hosted by Airlangga University. I am proud to be serving as a Gilman Alumni Ambassador for 2020-21.

Katherine Cabrera in Surabaya, Indonesia

I always emphasize cultural fluency whenever I mention my experience studying abroad in Indonesia. My professor, Dr. Lenaghan introduction to the skill of cultural fluency, and since then I have been working on mastering it. I remember having to rely on the universal language of smiling at people. Even with the language barrier, a smile can show respect, mutual understanding, and happiness to be in their company. Cultural fluency has so many levels and I just scratched the surface. I have invested in my skills coming back from my experience and incorporating them into everything I commit to. For example, mental health awareness while being culturally fluent has been a great way of learning how to be culturally competent. Living in the multicultural, multilingual, multi-religious city of Miami requires an open mind and respecting everyone. I knew I wanted to specialize in Community Psychology and work directly with the people in my community. I love working alongside people from all backgrounds and walks of life.

While in Indonesia, I learned that psychology has many different applications around the world. This inspired me to look into Community Psychology when I came back because I thought I would have more of an impact working with people in need. Studying/internship abroad allows students like me to explore these options while still in undergrad. I learned that so many universities around the world have international programs open to U.S students who are interested in studying or working in other countries. I have career goals of establishing my career in another country when I eventually pursue a Ph.D. in Community Psychology. Maybe I will be a Peer Specialist or something equivalent to that globally. A great part about the Gilman Scholarship is the community of Gilman Scholars all across the world, sharing their stories, opportunities available, and advice. It really made me look into options I had not thought about such as a Fulbright. I love being able to reach out to my Gilman Community and seeing how their experience with Gilman shaped their entire life.

Gilman Scholars have the resources to enhance their study abroad experience into whatever they shape it to. There is no need to limit yourself to your area of study, so go for that culinary study abroad program, an architecture program even if you are a biology major. My program was focused on multicultural communication and relations and I had the opportunity to integrate psychology into all of my projects for the course. I met students in Indonesia majoring in psychology and shared those moments with them which have stuck with me even after a year later. As an undergrad, I really wanted to explore what was beyond my core classes, so taking an anthropology or sociology course really helped me mature my learning. I knew I wanted to take advantage of all my undergrad was offering and the Gilman community encourages the idea of always learning in all disciplines. I am grateful for the Gilman Scholarship which was my introduction to becoming a global citizen. I plan on pursuing more study abroad programs and hopefully working on my Ph.D in another country!

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