Ilin Misaras- Kultural Kurator
Ethnicity - Chinese-American
Occupation - International Educator
Place of Employment - North Carolina State University
Years in the field: 10
What global experiences have you taken part in when you were a student and/or a professional?
My first major global experience was right out of high school when I interned at CNN International (note: this is a very different channel from CNN in the US). Even though I was physically in Atlanta, GA - the journalists I worked with were from all over the world and worked very closely with the CNN bureaus from around the world. So, it was fantastic to see and hear the various languages being spoken by my co-workers, and the guests we would interview, and it was also eye-opening to see the news that breadth and depth of news that was covered globally versus what we're used to seeing on the U.S. channels. I worked on a show called "Inside Africa" and am forever grateful for the wonderful mentors that helped shape by curiosity and passion for journalism and all things international. I realized how little we learned about other countries and cultures in our education system here in the U.S. One of my co-workers from Tanzania would often quiz me by giving me a blank map of Africa and having me fill out the country names. I failed pretty miserably the first few times but finally studied and learned enough about the countries to do ok by the end of my internship. After that summer, I knew 2 things: 1) I was going to be a journalist, and 2) I wanted to travel the world to tell stories.
Since then, I’ve had several opportunities to study abroad during my undergraduate years at New York University as well as in my graduate program at NC State University. I was fortunate to be part of a scholars program at NYU that encouraged and required study abroad experiences. All of my credit-bearing study abroad programs were in Europe, so I’ve had the opportunity to travel throughout the western and eastern parts of the continent. I actually prefer many of the cities throughout Eastern Europe, and at some point hope to make it to Romania, which is where my husband was born and raised.
I also had an enlightening experience traveling to China with my mother and my aunt shortly after graduating from college. In many ways, I experienced the most culture shock traveling there because my expectations were incongruous with what I actually experienced. Overall, it was a great experience and I’m glad I got to see the country where my grandparents and ancestors were from, but it was also illuminating to see how quickly the Chinese were able to identify us as “American” tourists when we were interacting with them, even though we look like them and spoke the same language.
How has Global Education impacted you and your career choices?
I knew I always wanted to do something with an international focus and impact. My internship at CNNI was what led me down my first career path as a journalist. I loved the time I spent traveling across the U.S. (my first job was actually in Fairbanks, Alaska) and meeting people from all over the country and the globe. I gained an appreciation for the cultural diversity we have in the U.S. but I was missing the international element. So after a decade working for mostly local and national news outlets, I decided to get master's degree in international studies at NC State to spark a career change. I was lucky enough to find a teaching assistant position at the Global Training Initiative (GTI) and have been here for the last decade.
What do you enjoy most about the work that you do in Global Education?
I still love meeting the people we bring from overseas to our various training programs and now as an educator, I get to spend more time with the students and professionals and get to know them on a slightly deeper level. I especially enjoy working with the students because we get to see some of them grow and blossom during their time at NC State and become amazing people after graduation.
What challenges have you had to overcome as you work in Global Education?
I think the biggest challenge we face now is both battling the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the rise of nationalism across the world. First of all, it's just so weird not being able to interact with many of our international students face-to-face. I'm sad that many of them aren't getting to experience North Carolina and the U.S. in person because we all know that immersive experiences are one of the best ways to learn about a different culture. I'm also concerned that a country-first attitude that's being espoused by leaders and their constituents from around the world is hurting our ability to learn from each other and truly have cultural exchanges.
How has your cultural identity impacted your experience working in Global Education?
I think being Chinese-American has provided some insights to both cultures, which often makes it easier to see both sides, especially if there are differences in our values or norms.
How has seeing other people of color/diverse backgrounds in Global Education inspired you?
It serves as a reminder that we live in a big world and there's plenty of room for different perspectives and cultures and ways of living.
As a Kultural Kurator, what does culture mean to you?
Culture is all the layers of a person that make us such complex (and totally awesome) humans.
Self/Soul Care is important as we live our lives and do this work. How do you incorporate self/soul care into your life?
Nowadays, it's spending time with my kids. They have such a curiosity about the world and everything in it right now that it inspires me and I'm learning alongside them.
What advice would you give a future Kultural Kurators as they think about working in this field?
Stay curious and keep the desire to learn new things whether it's a new language or about a new culture or country.
How can others follow you on social media, website, and/or is there an email address that you'd like to share?
LinkedIn is probably the best way to connect: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ilin-misaras/