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Global perspectives on COVID-19: Student-created video dialogue

| Denise Olson

Grace Annis in Pisa, Italy

Grace Annis at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy, on one of many trips to the country.

Some people are born communicators, and UW-Eau Claire junior Grace Annis is one of them. While cooped up over the late spring months of the COVID-19 pandemic during Safer-at-Home orders, Annis decided to take her curiosity about how others were coping and her knack for meaningful conversation to the next level.

Both her study abroad experience in Valladolid, Spain, and her family's careers in the international travel business created a network of connections and a cultural appreciation for many countries around the globe. Annis used those connections to create a documentary-style video project of COVID-19 pandemic experiences (preview video found above).

Grace Annis and friend Fanni in Budapest 2019

Grace Annis, left, and friend Fanni Spitzmüller in Budapest, Hungary, in April 2019. Spitzmüller appears in Annis's video with perspectives from Hungary during the pandemic.

The double major in Spanish and communications from Eau Claire reached out to her host family in Spain, along with folks in France, Sweden, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, El Salvador, New Zealand and the U.K., asking them each a series of questions about their COVID-19 experiences, as well as their thoughts about how various leaders and nations have tackled the pandemic.

When asked about her obvious curiosity about perspectives from around the world, Annis credits various aspects of her Blugold education, particularly her Spanish major, her study abroad semester and an international communication course with Dr. David Tschida, associate professor of communication and journalism.

Dr. Tschida had an interesting perspective of Annis's project, an enterprise undertaken outside of his classroom, but placed well within concepts and practices endorsed through his course. 

"In the context of COVID, our culture(s), be they family, religious, national, etc., influence our choices to fill our own needs or wants first and primarily or to fill the needs of our community," Taschida said. "Wearing a mask, engaging in social isolation, going to a restaurant or city square, etc., are all choices and actions governed by our placement on the continuum and the cultural values we are acting in accordance with or rejecting." 

These often disparate values are what Annis sought to understand more fully as she considered her motivation to gather these global viewpoints. 

"My studies were effective in helping me cultivate a love and interest for Spanish culture and language," Annis said. "I consider it a gift to be able to communicate with others outside of English-speaking cultures. It has shown me that global citizenship can always be expanded. No matter how much we think we may know about other areas of the world, there is always something new to learn about the culture, the language, people's beliefs or current issues. The reason I wanted to communicate with all these people on camera was to allow others to watch their responses and think critically about the bigger picture and a wider worldview."

Annis expects to graduate in 2021 with hopes of using her fluency in Spanish to work abroad.

"As far as career planning goes, I️ am looking into possibly becoming a Spanish interpreter, or maybe working in media advertising or promotion for a company," she said, admitting that it's all still a bit "up in the air" with all that is happening.

One thing that is certain, however, is that Grace Annis and her willingness to reach out around the world to really listen to people's stories will be an asset to any organization in her future.

See Annis's blog and full video project titled "Intercultural discussions on COVID-19."