Zoe Guiney ’21 Looks Forward to Exploring the Importance of Creative Expression in Communication

July 20, 2021

Yvonne Gay

A female student sits on an outdoor bench.
Zoe Guiney '21
Photo credit: Yvonne Gay

Zoe Guiney, a Hispanic studies and cinema studies major, graduated from Oberlin College with high honors in May. Her educational journey will continue in Mexico as a Fulbright recipient.

“As a [Fulbright] English Teaching Assistant (ETA), I want to gain experience as a teacher and learn more about the complicated ways in which language expression and language learning create a sense of identity,” says Guiney.

“I also hope to participate in cultural exchange, which will, I suspect, teach me about other perspectives and encourage me to reflect upon my own positionality and sense of self. I hope this experience will give me a more nuanced understanding of Mexico, of the U.S., and of the complex but intrinsic relationship between our two countries and cultures.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants for individually designed study and research projects or for ETA programs. Participants learn, work, and live with the people of their host country, while sharing daily experiences. The program facilitates individual cultural exchange through direct interaction in the classroom, field, home, and in routine tasks. 

Outside of her classroom ETA experience, Guiney—who has interests in folk arts, crafting, and music—looks forward to exploring Mexico’s rich history of spinning, weaving, and embroidery, among other traditions.

“I find that all textiles are a window into culture and history,” says Guiney. “[Textiles] are communal arts and indicate complex relationships and community-building. As a maker of textiles myself, I am really excited to learn about others' practices, and perhaps participate as a guest and share my own work in these communal spaces.”

Since music has been a large part of her life—Guiney has played flute since the age of 7 and started playing banjo three years ago—the chance to bond with other musicians is also an enticing prospect. 

During her gap year at Oberlin, Guiney traveled to La Paz, Mexico, for the first time as an exchange student and became more comfortable speaking Spanish, a language she started studying in the 7th grade. She played flute with the La Escuela de Música del Estado Baja and says the experience expanded her concept of what it means to connect with others, while emphasizing the importance of creative expression in communication. She later returned to Mexico to perform a summer internship in Chiapas. 

“Spanish is a beautiful and interesting language for many reasons. It’s spoken in so many different places in the world, and there’s a lot of linguistic diversity, all of which is deeply rooted in complex and specific histories,” she explains. “In Mexico, there are dozens of Indigenous languages actively spoken, all of which influence and are influenced by Spanish.”

Guiney intends to pursue a PhD program in media studies, cultural studies, Hispanic studies, or another related interdisciplinary field. Eventually she would like a career in academia and as a filmmaker, largely because of her interests in the way studying theory influences creative work, and the way that creative work influences scholarly work, she says. 

“I hope that my work as an artist, as a scholar, and as a teacher will specifically explore  injustices, inequalities, and the systems that perpetrate them,” says Guiney. “I will strive for my work to elevate marginalized perspectives and facilitate communication, empathy, and collaboration across language, cultural, and physical boundaries. I hope that in doing this work I can participate in building a more equitable and just world.” 

Guiney, a resident of Granville, Ohio, was awarded the Paul Patrick Rogers Prize in Hispanic Studies, and the Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking and Excellence in Film Scholarship from the Cinema Studies Program. She also served as cochair of Oberlin Folk Club and a member of the Senior Fellow StoryLens Pictures. She participated in the Oberlin Students in Solidarity with Guatemala winter term project in 2018 and 2019. 


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