CIA Week Continues With Self-Care Across Cultures

by Jessica Lewis

On Sunday, October 29th, students gathered in the Intercultural Center for a CIA Week event titled “Cultural Self-Care”. The event, attended by students from across cultural backgrounds,  introduced various forms of self-care from many cultures to Swarthmore’s campus.

Organizers of the event wanted to emphasize the many unique and culturally specific forms of self care while also creating good, relaxing vibes. Gina Goosby ‘20, HAPA and SASS member, described the central idea of the event as a way to “share some ways students express their culture through self care.”

Iris Wang ‘21, an organizer of the event, stated “the idea behind the afternoon of relaxation was so that different people from different cultures could show different ways of self care. We wanted CIA week to be accessible to everyone and to view cultural identity as something that is pleasant.” Vanessa Jimenez-Read, another organizer for CIA week, described the goal of the event to “take some time away from all the homework and stress to chill. Basically, the event was aimed at providing a space so that people could decompress with self care routines from various cultures.” Furthermore, Jimenez- Read emphasized that “self care is really vital to our well-being, especially in environments like Swat where the line between work and home is so blurred.”

During the event, students from African Diaspora, Asian, and other backgrounds shared their self care techniques. A few students represented their culture through specific self care methods. Maya Henry ‘20 , co-president of SQU, shared a natural hair care workshop to represent cultures branching from the African Diaspora. Henry used the event as a space to introduce how “important [it is] for black women and femmes to tune out the narrative that there’s one type of “black hair” that acts in one way. There’s no typical hair that we all have, so it’s important for us to share the ways we learn to take care out our hair and products we use. There's so much diversity in our hair types and the ways we can style them.” She showed students how to use proper hair care with oils for hot oil treatments and scalp massages as a form of self care. Throughout many cultures and communities of African descent, hair care is a time consuming and essential form of self-care.

Gina Goosby ‘20 perceived the Cultural Self Care event as a reminder for Swatties to practice self care and how essential it is. Goosby said, “I think Swatties, for all they fuss we make about self care, often forget to practice what we preach, myself included. With our curious culture of overcommitment, it seems at every turn that self care is impossible—and even somewhat frowned upon, depending on how you're caring for yourself—at Swat.”

In addition to being given the opportunity to practice self care techniques of other cultures, the Cultural Self Care event was also a space to hold conversations with others about self care and the purpose of it. Alexis Riddick ‘20, SASS and OASIS board member, spoke about how the event had some “unintentional aspects [which] were also part of self care: we had some good laughs and some great laughs and good conversations, even though not everyone there was super familiar or close with each other before”. CIA week’s Cultural Self-Care served as a much needed reminder for students to understand the need for self care and the importance of it. The event presented a way to promote and advocate for self care which is often misunderstood of its power. Many felt it gave them the power to reclaim their time and space. The Cultural Self-Care event also gave people the freedom to look to other cultures for different self care practices.     

Other students represented Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Iranian cultures. Iris Wang ‘20 provided sheets and rice masks as a representation of self care. Other students also shared Genmai-cha, a Japanese tea of roasted brown rice and green tea as a way to practice self care. Gina Goosby ‘20 and Mads Shoraka '20 provided Asian and Iranian teas.

“The benefits of taking some alone time to nap, watch anime, or drink tea and stare at the ceiling can far outweigh the detriments of not finishing that problem set tonight or not getting to that reading. I have had to teach myself to relish the days I can chill indoors more than powering through homework until 3 a.m. I'm not perfect (I stay up way too late most nights of the week and still have work on weekends, but I'm getting there. And I think most, if not all, Swatties could benefit from a little more mindfulness toward self care” said Goosby about her own self-care regimen.

“Self-care for marginalized people is really important because we face so many pressures on campus and in our daily lives. We need to take time to do something for ourselves. It's almost a spiritual moment of being able to take time and focus on the care of your body,” Henry stated.