GC highlight: Kiyomi Masamune uses the education as a way to transform the world 

This gentle yet influential woman has found in education the opportunity to contribute to society and transform the world we live in. We recently spoke with Kiyomi Masamune, a Ph.D. candidate at Penn State University, about her long experience living abroad.

Kiyomi is from Tokyo, Japan. Before coming to the United States, she lived for a few years in England and Italy. Living in Europe, she could understand personally the challenges of living abroad. It also brought her knowledge about the diversity of cultures due to her contact with different communities in the West.

Kiyomi and her family arrived in the United States 17 years ago. Her first home was in Worcester, MA, because of her husband who got a position as a visiting professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). We asked about her first impression here in the US, and she said, “I made a lot of mistakes when I first came to the United States because I didn’t speak English so much. And the first impression, the first morning I went to a supermarket and I got a box of donuts and they were so tasty. I thought, oh, I think I can survive here. It has such good food.” She laughed and continued saying, “Also, there are a lot of green spaces in big cities, which reminded me of Tokyo. So, that first impression was good.”

We asked if she ever felt sad or lonely living in the US, but due to her previous experience abroad she did not find it so difficult. She said, “I had already experienced being away from home. So, when I first came to the United States, I didn’t feel so sad because America can offer a feeling of welcome. Meanwhile, Europe for me is like Japan with a long history, which for me makes them similar in some aspects.”

Even after living so many years abroad, what still makes her feel homesick “definitely food.” She said, “So, I started to feel it when I got older. I left my country when I was 24, and until recently, I didn’t miss Japanese food so much. However, nowadays maybe my body system is getting older and I would like to go back to my original, I think. Yeah, so I do not want to eat out because what US restaurants can offer cannot satisfy me anymore. So, today, I prefer to cook a simple Japanese meal for myself.” Also, in order to avoid and reduce homesickness, she talks with her family in Japan at least once a month by video call.

Three years after having arrived in the USA, she moved to Altoona. She expressed with a smile that she fell in love with that place, and she decided to specialize in early childhood education. Her desire to work and start her research in the education field emerged from the experiences that she faced raising her daughters in the US. These experiences came from the challenges to raise bilingual children, which not just involve the relation between home and community but also the relations in the school that demand daily effort for foreigners.

Her involvement with Global Connections is recent; actually, she started nine months ago when she felt the need to enhance her writing skills due to some issues that she faced on her academic journey. Besides that, she had the opportunity to meet Bob Persiko, who encouraged and helped her with her academic writing.

Regarding Global Connections, she mentioned being very grateful and appreciative for the opportunity that the program gave to her to deliver a presentation about herself and her cultural experiences at the GC general membership meeting in April. In addition, she recalls one moment when delivering the presentation where a woman from the audience told her, “I’m really glad you presented today because my experience is very similar. And I didn’t have any chance to recognize it.”

Until that moment, Kiyomi was not sure if the audience was listening to her presentation. When she heard that comment, she felt honored and emotional because her story could be valued and encourage other people. She also felt pride in motivating other Asians to break out of a stereotype. She says, “That’s one of the reasons I wrote my paper to encourage others, especially East Asian women who tend to be very quiet and have the reputation to be very obedient and quiet in class. We can go out of that stereotype. So, if I can inspire at least one person, it is wonderful. So that is the thing I appreciate a lot about Global Connections.”

To conclude the interview, we asked her about the best part of being a Global Connections member, and she said, “The best part is that I can connect with people around the globe, and also to get to know people from other countries personally, not just through the media.”

2022 Multicultural Unity Fair

After taking a break from activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cultural Corner’s Committee will be back. The sub-Committee of the Community Diversity Group, and the Borough of State College will hold the fair this year on September 17, from 12pm to 4pm at the State College Municipal Building (243 S Allen Street)It will be a day of performances, food, games, information booths, and a chance to connect with our diverse community members. This is a free community-wide event. All are welcome.After taking a break from activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cultural Corner’s Committee will be back. The sub-Committee of the Community Diversity Group, and the Borough of State College will hold the fair this year on September 17, from 12pm to 4pm at the State College Municipal Building (243 S Allen Street). It will be a day of performances, food, games, information booths, and a chance to connect with our diverse community members. This is a free community-wide event. All are welcome.

Meet friends and neighbors at LION Bash

Join us for LION (Living In One Neighborhood) Bash on September 8th, from 5pm to 8pm, for the annual block party that strives to create a community for both long-term and short-term residents in the Borough of State College. This event provides an educational opportunity for new and returning Penn State students along with current Borough residents. There will be food, music, and fun for residents of all ages.

Everyone is welcome and everyone plays a role in engaging, welcoming, recruiting members to our organization! Stop by our table, and volunteer if you can, to meet some old friends and new during LION Bash ( on Allen Street in State College)

Global Connections volunteers are needed to help staff our GC Welcome table. Sign up for a 1-1/2 hour timeslot by signing up here: https://signup.com/go/anByJjC

Or by emailing Rita at [email protected] 

Global Connections International Women’s Book Group returns to in person meetings

We welcome new members to join GC International Women’s Book Group. The meetings this fall will be in-person. We look forward to making new friends and engaging in lively discussions!

The group members are active participants in discussions and in book selections. We read a wide variety of books appropriate for intermediate/advanced English readers. The books promote discussion and make for some lively interaction. While exchanging our views, members have the opportunity to practice their English speaking skills in a relaxed environment in which all opinions are valued. 

Global Connections also offers a beginner’s level book group. If you enjoy reading and a good discussion, and you are interested in improving your English speaking skills join us. Email Susan at [email protected] or contact Global Connections at [email protected]   

From midwife to a professional artist: know Andrea Silva Urzua Global Connections member

In this life we should not be limited to other people’s expectations. We should always have the right to expand. The chance to be better, and bigger. To be whoever we want and, especially, someone who makes the difference wherever we go. Andrea Silva is exactly like this. Is she an immigrant from Chile in the USA? Yes. She is also an amazing artist. She is a midwife, a mother, and a strong woman. An example that human being is multifaceted, intelligent and capable of many things.

Andrea moved to State College in 2016. She came with her husband Thomas, who was a PhD student at Penn State. Living abroad, in the beginning, was hard. Andrea barely could speak English. She felt lonely and sad for not being able to make new friends. She also missed her work as midwife and started losing her confidence. It was when she started learning English at Mid State Literacy School.

Researching on the internet she found Global Connections. She became enchanted by the possibility of trying different meetings, like craft activities, and English classes. She wanted to be able to speak English as fast as she could. “I tried to get evolved because I thought it would be fun and they would have more activities that I could do by myself. For example, it was fun to do a craft activity while learning to speak English.” At that point Andrea didn´t dream about the possibility of one day being an artist.

In these classes, Andrea met her best friend in the USA. “When you are living abroad, the connections you have, like friendships, are different from the ones you used to have in your home country. You have to work hard in order to meet people, to expose yourself. Sometimes, when your English is not that good, you feel ashamed that you are not talking or people will not understand you. Because we were in the same condition (international people at Global Connections) it was easier for us to understand each other. We knew it was difficult for us to express ourselves in English”, says Andrea.

“Global Connections was important for me not only to learn English. It was important for the people I have been meeting this whole time, and also because my husband had his connections at the University. Finally I could have my own connections, find a place where I can feel secure, where I can express myself.”

In 2018 Andrea was feeling homesick. At that moment she decided to take part in an internet challenge. She painted and won that challenge. That was the beginning of her passion for painting with watercolors. “It gave me some kind of relief. I started painting a little bit every day.” In 2019 she went to Chile to work as a midwife. While there, she decided to have painting classes. “I feel that watercolor saved me. I found some purpose in my life. My heart is full now.”   

She remembers her path. “In the beginning I couldn’t see painting as a gift. I was trying to fill some spaces. My work (as midwife) was very important, it was all my life. Here I was not having this same feeling. I really liked to help people. I didn’t have that same purpose and it was hard. And, at some point, the watercolor came to me and saved me.” She spent eight months in Chile.

 After returning to the USA, Andrea started painting more regularly. In 2021, during the pandemic, she was pregnant. At that point, she started to think about her art more professionally. Also, she started meeting other artists and people who enjoyed her work. She started to build new connections in this art area. “I´m glad that this community (State College area) has space for local artists. There are so many great artists here. Everyone has different paths and you can show to people what you are doing.”  

Now, Andrea is the proud and lovely mother of two beautiful kids: her son Ernesto and her amazing art. “Ernesto is a gift. He changed me. I am not the same person I was before. I think now he gives the energy to do things. I want to prove to him that I can do it and he also can be whoever he wants. Even though I discovered I want to paint later in my life. He knows that his mother can do whatever. I can be a midwife. I can be a painter. If you really try you can do whatever you want in your life. Now he is my muse.” 

About Global Connections, Andrea tells how important the organization became to her life. “Global Connections has always been by my side. It is like a second family. It is something that you don´t think that you will have in a place so far from your home country. It’s a very good resource for international people. I’m very happy to have found them. I’m very happy with the friends and family I met there. I’m especially glad for the teachers. Bob (Persiko), for example, was always so supportive. He believed in me before I could do it. I´m very grateful for that. I couldn’t see myself without this organization in my life.” 

Thank you for making the difference

Thanks to everyone who contributed to Global Connections during the Centre Gives campaign. This was our first involvement in this activity of the Centre Foundation. In the two days of this big giving event, 22 people made donations totaling $845. In addition, GC qualified for a Last Chance prize of $250. The actual final amount of the award will be announced in June. The funds will help us expand our outreach, provide a welcoming environment for international visitors, and foster mutual understanding and respect.

Message from the President – Giving Back

In the spirit of Centre Gives, we in Global Connections should develop programs that give back to the community. Not having a paid staff, the initiative for such actions falls on the members. We need people to think creatively about projects that could be developed and to be willing to turn an idea into a reality. Are there people in the community who need help? Do we have talents we could offer in support of others?

As an example, the State College Area School District approached us seeking an Arabic speaker to provide a translation of a school form to use with Arabic-speaking parents. We were able to help. An international visitor needs to build her confidence in English. We are helping her. A local service organization asked if GC could find out what an Iranian senior citizen’s needs were. We responded.

What if an international visitor needs temporary accommodation? Do we have the resources in our membership to be of assistance? Is there a newcomer in our area who is seeking to break out of her isolation and meet people? I encourage our members to not only bring to our attention individual in need but also help us develop solutions that enhance GC’s community outreach.

Bob Persiko 

President of Global Connections