Melissa Kalaj + Breana Brittian Cross-Cultural Analysis

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Melissa Kalaj + Breana Brittian Cross-Cultural Analysis by Mind Map: Melissa Kalaj  + Breana Brittian  Cross-Cultural Analysis

1. Similarities

1.1. Community

1.1.1. Melissa and I both grew up in diverse metropolitan areas that have a large population of Black and Brown people. Gwinnett, the county to the northeast of mine, is the most diverse county in the Southeastern United States. Clarkston, a town I used to live in during elementary school, is noted for taking in a large number of refugees and being incredibly diverse in comparison to it's small size. Here is an article about Clarkston that contains images of actual residents. Ellis Island South: Welcome to the most diverse square mile in America. (2018, July 12). Retrieved from

1.2. Academic

1.2.1. We have both obtained college degrees, which are a marker of success and progress in our families! Our mothers both have left school to be earners. She has stated "my mom doesn't have the time nor funds to attend college to get a better job because that's less money coming in for my family for a while." My mother was planning to return to university after an earlier burn-out but could not after she got pregnant with me, and had to work two jobs instead. This image discusses how American inequality plays into the disappointingly low birth-related rankings of the US. Fisher, M. (2013, May 08). Here's a map of the best and worst countries to be a mother. Retrieved from

1.2.2. We both were labeled as high achievers (terms vary by school district) from early ages!

1.3. Linguistic

1.3.1. We both speak a variety of English heavily affected by AAVE, dotted with ballroom-popularized LGBT slang that has worked it's way through that community, to the dictionaries of Black women, to the mainstream.

1.3.2. Ronald Murray gives a background and introduction on Ballroom Culture, started by young African-American and Latino-American LGBT members in New York. While this video focuses on the art of Voguing, his way of speech with certain phrases are like ours ("Y'all tried it!" "Don't do that." heard after 5:10) Ballroom Culture: the Language of Vogue | Ronald Murray | TEDxColumbus

2. Differences

2.1. Socioeconomic Standing

2.1.1. Melissa considers herself to be at the low end of the middle class. I consider myself to be truly lower class. Here, on Investopedia, you can find out what "class" you belong to in your state. Which Income Class Are You?

2.2. Academic

2.2.1. Melissa went to public school only in her elementary years and was privately educated after that. I went to private school for my Pre-K year and attended five differing public elementary schools after that. I was in the magnet-advanced program in public school after that. This is Melissa's high school, a private Catholic institution that only serves girls. Here is my high school, a public 4-year magnet school. It served the children in the community with "resident" programs and children from around the county in the "magnet" program.

2.2.2. Melissa attained her associates degree and was taking a few summer courses at Brooklyn College. I (currently) plan to pursue a Ph.D some while after this Masters program, she thinks this is cool and would like to have a Ph.D as well, but hates school (ha!).

2.3. Familial

2.3.1. Though we both have siblings, hers are full-siblings. I am an only child by my mother's regard, having three half-sisters from my father. We all live separately.

2.3.2. She has relatives in New York, Michigan, Albania, Yugoslavia, and a few other European countries! She often flies out to visit. Despite all of my family living in the state of Georgia (except one sibling), we very rarely see each other or gather outside of my immediate maternal relatives.

2.4. Linguistic

2.4.1. While Melissa speaks both Albanian and English fluently, I only know English. Albanian is her heritage language. As my family is African-American, we don't have one. What I do have, as an African American, is a grasp on AAVE--a dialect of American English with ties to the Southern vernacular, rooted in the coming together of various enslaved African cultures. PBS has an article detailing the formation of what we now know as AAVE Wolfram, W., & Torbert, B. (2005, January 5). When Worlds Collide: The Linguistic Legacy of the African Slave Trade. Retrieved from

2.5. Cultural

2.5.1. Growing up in the Bronx, Melissa was in close relation with many Black and Latino families. She detailed having friends of immensely different racial, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds growing up, being able to move all over the New York boroughs. I grew up on the southwest side of DeKalb County. It is primarily Black, most of my schools were Black, and because of this all of my friends growing up were Black. That isn't to say there isn't a segregation issue in New York, as it's a very well documented issue surrounding the segregation of schools by race guised as performance and zoning. Here is a video from VICE News on an upset in New York regarding reserving 25% of the seats in schools serving affluent white and Asian students for children of color from the "low performing" zones. Rich Parents In New York City Are Mad Their Schools Are Trying To Desegregate (HBO)

3. Reflection

3.1. There were not cultural conflicts that we had to work though. Melissa, not being deeply embedded in old Albanian culture, had the same frame of mind as me. Had she been highly traditional, she would not occasionally question her Catholic beliefs or get into frequent arguments with other Albanians for nationalist, islamophobic, or sexist comments that align with their old way of thinking. In that same vein, we had zero discomforts during the experience and actually spent a lot of time laughing at each other. I learned (and quickly forgot) some Albanian pick-up lines and heard a few speeches on Albania vs Turkey/Greece/Montenegro/Kosovo/Italy (the Balkan + Mediterranean countries all dig at each other like aunts at a barbecue).

3.1.1. There isn't much of an immediate difference between Melissa and I, as young, liberal, American women with similar ways of speaking, concepts of humor, interests, and so on. When you dig into backgrounds, yes, we had different lives. She lived with both parents growing up and frequently traveled to see other family. I, on the other hand, lived alone with my mother and my idea of traveling to see family was a 15 minute trip to my maternal grandparents' house. It wasn't easy but it wasn't hard trying to compare us for this analysis. I think we don't know enough about each other honestly (Melissa says this is because she's a Scorpio, if you subscribe to astrological beliefs. I personally am an Aries.) If I had to add to my auto-biography, I would surely like to include more specifics about my "culture" as an African-American. How we celebrate American holidays like the 4th of July and Labor Day simply because we'll be off of work and able to throw some hot dogs on the grill, not because of any patriotism! How the teachers have habits of basically adopting us in school; we literally become their kids for that year and forevermore. As long as they can remember our faces [insert laugh here]. I focused a lot more on the ideas of privilege, cultural specifics, and etc within a lens of being American and being Black, in America. Melissa got to have varying views, as she is white, but she was brought up with many POC and understands their points. And despite her benefiting from white privilege, she is othered within whiteness as an Eastern European from a country that's Muslim-dominant (as if Spain wasn't once upon a time!)