Claudio "Clau" Castaneda - Kultural Kurator
Claudio "Clau" Castaneda
He, Him, His
Ethnicity - Salvadoran, Italian, North American
Occupation - University Relations Associate
Place of Employment - SAI Study Abroad
Years in the field: 9
What global experiences have you taken part in when you were a student and/or a professional?
I was very lucky to have had multiple opportunities for global experiences as a student and as a professional. In high school and undergrad, I was able to participate in various programs through the Region of Tuscany government initiative that included a fellowship in art restoration and an ambassadorship with the National Park of the Apennines. I served as a group leader for multiple high school programs in Italy, and participated in a summer Italian language exchange. Afterwards, I moved to Milan to obtain my Master’s degree in visual arts and curatorial studies. My time in Milan guided me to my current career in International Education, where I went from being a student assistant in my school’s international office to the on-site Program Coordinator, and then to the University Relations Associate position that I hold today. While living and working abroad for six years, I collaborated with artists and academic administrators from all over the world. I continue to travel domestically and internationally for both work and pleasure.
How has Global Education impacted you and your career choices?
My first experience in global education was in high school when I attended the Young Tuscans Abroad program for Italian cultural and language immersion. I lived with a vastly diverse group of students from all over the world, where a common factor was our heritage and shared Italian language. This was the first experience that truly impacted my views on the significance of and opportunities available in global education.This experience highlighted the importance of understanding ourselves and being open-minded to manifold perspectives; when we are able to see the world through profuse worldviews, we can then shine that perspective back on ourselves, allowing for deeper self-discovery and reflection. Through my interactions with Global Education, I have learned of and reaped the benefit from going outside my comfort zone, employing non-prejudice to explore new ideas, and striving to unlearn and reform my preconceived ideas and beliefs. All of this has given me meaning as I continue working in International Education and exploring a career in teaching.
What do you enjoy most about the work that you do in Global Education?
Helping students navigate their own global experience and being a resource for them to grow and understand themselves. I also like to form and inform on the spaces they occupy. I am daily challenged and intrigued by the changes happening in global education, and strive to help shape the best practices that impact our students, faculty, administrators, and host countries.
What challenges have you had to overcome as you work in Global Education?
The biggest challenge for me has been overcoming the lurking ‘Imposter Syndrome.’ Coming from a visual arts background and having no formal education in Higher Education Administration or Hospitality, I experience fluctuations in my confidence pertaining to my expertise and skill set, whether I was developing Faculty Led Programs or working in University Relations. As I mature as a professional with considerable experience in the field, I realize that this field is full of incredible individuals with varied skills sets and immense resilience - two facets of Global Education that make it dynamic. Almost all of us will face some form of ‘Imposter syndrome’ at some point in our lives, and our true strength lies in how we overcome it and move forward.
How has your cultural identity impacted your experience working in Global Education?
This has played out in so many ways! My experiences with the programs offered by the Italian Government made me want to better understand my Italian heritage and culture, and as a result I focused my studies on Italian art, history, language and culture. Doing so also inspired me to enroll in an in-country graduate program, during which I explored and re-discovered my Salvadoran heritage through my thesis work. Even more life-changing, living abroad gave me the space to bravely explore my gender identity and new career paths in ways I hadn’t thought possible. My Global Education gave me the tools to better frame and understand my intersecting identities, a privilege for which I am grateful. Because of this, I now move through the world more confidently and proudly share my identities. The cultural identity I fostered in global education impacts how I work and the ways I support students and colleagues as a Global Educator.
How has seeing other people of color/diverse backgrounds in Global Education inspired you?
Being able to hear the stories of other BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) and queer people in Global Education has inspired me to show up and be my authentic self. I’ve been very lucky and privileged to have a support system that allows me to do so. Seeing others do i constant reminder that systemic change is possible wherever and whenever, especially when we take bold actions and affirm marginalized groups, helping them to eventually share their authenticity.
As a Kultural Kurator, what does culture mean to you?
Culture is intersecting, all-encompassing and continually changing and evolving.
Self/Soul Care is important as we live our lives and do this work. How do you incorporate self/soul care into your life?
Taking care of yourself is important for everyone. We can show up for others when we are able to also show up for ourselves. I take time every day to check in with myself. Finding a work-life-balance is really important to me, I enjoy spending time gardening, cooking, exploring the outdoors and spending time with loved ones. It’s important to nourish all aspects of ourselves (emotional, mental, physical, spiritual) so we can then really show up for others in the work we do day in and day out.
What advice would you give a future Kultural Kurators as they think about working in this field?
Don’t be discouraged if you feel any sense of ‘imposter syndrome’. Everyone, no matter what career they choose, feels this at some point. Even if you’re new to the field or the field of Education at large, all of us are continually learning and adapting. This field will give you skill sets that allow you to easily shift directions in your career. If you have a specific job as a goal, don’t be discouraged if it takes time to reach that job. Remember that there are many paths to the same destination, and know that the destination may change over the course of your career. No matter which direction you go in Global Education you will gain life skill sets that will set you apart from everyone else and a community that’s ready to help you.
How can others follow you on social media, website, and/or is there an email address that you'd like to share?
Please feel free to connect with me on instagram (@claudio_e84) or LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/claucastaneda)