Rowan Gossett CC'20

Local cuisine in Chile

Social Justice While Abroad

Rowan Gossett CC'20

"I was searching for ways to connect what I was studying in classrooms on campus with lived experiences and intersecting identities at the global scale."

Throughout my time at Columbia, I’ve grappled with how to articulate my commitment to social justice and find ways to channel my energy into creating positive change that extends far beyond campus. My experience studying and doing research abroad helped me do just that. While my coursework in the Core Curriculum and in Human Rights have time and again made me struggle with questions about systems of injustice that exist in the world and different conceptions of rights, freedoms, and paths to happiness that might confront them, I always felt trapped inside the echo chambers of academia. I was searching for ways to connect what I was studying in classrooms on campus with lived experiences and intersecting identities at the global scale. Deciding to study abroad was, then, a no-brainer… but I could never have imagined how profoundly my time in Chile would shape my future trajectory and aspirations. New York as a city and Columbia as a campus are in themselves incredibly diverse, but spending time so far away from home in a new cultural context made me reflect on the different identities and privileges I hold in more ways than one. My coursework in Chile helped me recognize common forms of injustice and oppression that transcend national boundaries, but also brought me into direct contact with specific cultural contexts far beyond any I could’ve formed connections to while in New York. Whether it was participating in an Aymara celebration of the harvest season, learning the basics of Mapudungun (the language of the Mapuche pueblo), or preparing every meal with my beloved host family in Valparaiso, I was never at a loss for new ways to learn from and build relationships with those around me.