Travel Log 11 – Half the Sky


I decided to watch the documentary portion of Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof. I liked how it opened with a celebrity, George Clooney, to say that we all relate to tragedy. Although some situations can’t be fixed, they can become aware by people around the globe. Celebrities, including actors and actresses, know emotion best, which is why I thought it was a smart idea on Nicholas’ part to bring some like Meg Ryan and Olivia Wilde with him on his journeys. Ultimately, everyone has the same human rights, and I think the topics discussed in this film perfectly sum up why these human rights and more importantly, women’s rights, need to be brought to light today in our modern world.

I think the best way to convey the documentary’s overall message to others would be to describe it not as just a film looking at different social issues around the globe. It’s more to show a movement we as the human race must stand by. It’s the subtitle for Kristof’s whole piece, “Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide.” What he’s basically saying is that it’s time to stand up for women’s equality in an unequal world. This whole endeavor brings to mind one of my favorite musicians, Chad Stokes, of Dispatch and State Radio. Besides being a talented artist, he promotes equality through a grassroots structure, and co-founded an organization called “Calling All Crows.” The organization makes efforts to relay to the global community important issues such as education, aid for refugees, environmental policy and as primarily discussed in Half the Sky, women’s rights and the need for women empowerment around the world. I’ll provide the link to their website below along with a link for Stokes’ song of the same name, Calling All Crows, that is highlighting women empowerment.

One of the stories in the film that got to me was all of those in Cambodia dealing with sex trafficking. Having no personal connection to any of the terrible things that go on in that industry, I can’t even begin to believe how hard is must be for a woman to struggle through that. (Excuse my language in the next sentence) To know that something that fucked up is happening and has been happening to woman and girls under the age of even 4 years old is unbelievable. A woman by the name of Somaly Mam was highlighted early on in the documentary. Her particular story was extremely tragic, as her origin before being sold to a brothel is unknown. She has no name, and no family. Her story is that at a young age she was trafficked into a brothel. Her friend was murdered, and she was raped repeatedly until she later escaped. She now manages a sort of survivor’s camp, and fights against women exploitation in Cambodia. Somaly helps victims become survivors by giving them love, happiness and opportunity. Her story is sad, and even in her interviews she gets sad, but her main goal above all else is to help those that have been affected. Her emotions portrayed are positive; love and compassion are given to her young girls so that they can become a voice for change. There’s happiness there despite coming from such a violent and cruel background. Actress Meg Ryan describes her as charismatic, having a heroic quality to her. Somaly is a symbol of hope for victims of sex slavery. It was also sad to hear that during her time in the brothel, she began to hate herself, and said if she died, she’d be ok with it. As mentioned previously, she now takes her story and uses it to empower the girls she saves to overcome obstacles in their lives. She even will put herself at risk and venture into brothels herself in order to save young girls, which is an incredibly brave thing to do.

In terms of my particular field of study, filmmaking, there are obvious implications unto which I can use this information within my career. Universally, all the topics discussed in Half the Sky can relate to my field and be adapted for the screen. Some issues may certainly be more difficult than others in a narrative sense (which is mainly what I do, I’m not much for documentaries), but the stories told around the world are necessary to hear and are important for more and more people to understand, so that we as a human race can bring light to these situations by exposing and handling them.


“Calling All Crows” Music Video:

Calling All Crows – Organization Website:


Travel Log 10 – Encountering Globalization

While Japan is certainly not a third world country like that of Zambia, displayed in the documentary “The Travels of a T-Shirt in The Global Economy,” there are definitely traces and signs of globalization throughout Tokyo that have been present since the postwar period.

In the documentary, it’s shown that second hand clothes from America is the largest export into Africa, making bigger conglomerate companies billions of dollars, while leaving those who sell these clothes on the streets of Zambia not much income. It’s said that the commercial dealers make the real money, and that’s definitely a showcase of globalization in our modern world. The term “one mans trash is another mans treasure” comes to mind, in that things we as Americans think are old, or even culturally irrelevant are important for most people’s survival in third world countries. It’s interesting to see how the redistribution of material goods works in Africa through the eyes of someone directly in the middle of globalization (in the form of the main person highlighted in the film). It’s also interesting to note that while these people are selling these items, making to support their family all the while clothing themselves, Americans often take this notion for granted. In America it’s easy to get proper shelter, food and water, but for those in Zambia, for example, it’s much harder. I noticed that most people interviewed in the United States during the film would be aware of the problems faced in globalization, but would often laugh it off or awkwardly chuckle to make up for their understanding of it. Someone asks a very important question, that of: “whose interest were they designed to serve?” I’m brought back to my history class I took sophomore year, when we thoroughly discussed the origins of African globalization. This took form after WWI, when at the Berlin Conference, European nations basically split up the continent of Africa into bits and pieces, inciting both slavery and colonialism. The people of Africa were forced into European culture from the government, and it seems like that trend continued into the modern day.

It’s discussed in the film that US culture is exhibited in everything from books, to magazines, music, and clothing. Kevin Robins, in his piece “Encountering Globalization,” begins by stating that globalization is about growing mobility across the world. I think this is totally true, and even more so when you realize the relevance of American culture brought to most every facet of the globe. Japan is definitely subject to this, and it’s most notably seen during the postwar period during and after the US occupation. During that time, everything from American popular culture was influencing Japanese society. Disney is something we’ve talked about here in class that transcended media and drove straight into culture. The influence of Hollywood and American music also helped form early concepts of Japanese cinema and the popular music industry here. Conversely, it’s interesting to note how much of Japanese culture has come back to the US (I’m writing this listening to a “Best of Anime Soundtrack” playlist on YouTube). Despite this, there are countless things I’ve encountered here that are very “American.” For example, McDonalds and Coca-Cola are ever present. In fact, coca-cola is one of the only sodas you can find here besides Sprite and Fanta orange/grape. I liked how Robins mentioned cultural convergence toward the end of his piece. “What globalization in fact brings into existence is the new basis for thinking about the relation between cultural convergence and cultural indifference.” (Robins, 245). From what I’ve seen, Japan has converged with not only the diversity of itself, but with other countries. For a huge example that most people don’t know, ramen is from China. Our global community is a lot more interconnected than we initially realize, and I think the documentary and Robins’ reading exemplify that notion.

Travel Log 9 – Exploring Stereotypes

I generally agree with what Hafez Adel had to say about stereotypes. I think that above all else, it’s important to understand and think critically about the stereotypes people have both about Americans and about the rest of the world, because frankly, they exist everywhere. It’s true when Adel says we know less about each other than we initially thought. You can’t truly understand a different culture or country without being there and talking critically with those who live there.

When asked if studying abroad has caused me to reconsider stereotypes, my answer is that it hasn’t really. Before coming to Japan, there was this idea that was talked about with friends and even family that this country was super-technologically advanced, in a far greater way than the rest of the world. Technology is really not as great as foreigners think, and definitely causes misconception for those who think it’s true. While yes, there are incredibly innovative things going on here, there are still national issues like wifi and the advent of new communication in smart phones and smart appliances. You’ll see hundreds and thousands of people daily still using flip/analog phones. The wifi and general Internet connection has been an issue for years, and I recently learned in my East Asian Visual Media course that the government is aware and has been trying to fix this for over a decade now. Another stereotype that exist here might be that everything is completely off-the-wall crazy and hyper “kawaii” (cute). Despite the few eccentrics you’ll see wandering the late night streets of Shinjuku or Akihabara, Tokyo isn’t as wild as some may think. Nothing is completely over-the-top unless you’re looking for over-the-top (in which case go directly to the Robot Café). Taking your shoes off everywhere is something I reconsidered as I got here. It really isn’t everywhere, mainly just in homes, apartments, and some restaurants. There was also this notion I heard that everyone here is considerate, polite and very conscious of personal space. It’s true that there’s an overall sense of politeness compared to Americans, but in terms of personal space, feel free to forget about it. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the train system (especially in the morning) will group you with hundreds of other people in a shoulder-to-shoulder sardine tin of a transportation shuttle. As I’ve also mentioned, this proves Japanese cultural and social unity.

Something that I really appreciate in my Visual Media course for bringing up is that many of the stereotypes found within Japanese culture are formed by popular culture. This includes manga, anime and foreign depictions of Japan. For example, why do we as Americans think Japan is so technologically advanced? One reason is because of the industrial postwar push for all things television, media, appliances and the reinvigoration of the culture. This stems way back to the 1960’s and ‘70’s, when you had a push for science fiction and the creation of the mecha-genre in anime and manga. Stereotypes form from history, which is why it’s so important to not just look at a different country’s culture and society at face value. You need to look past these and really think critically about what’s going on in order to, as Adel says, understand those complex cultural patterns.

I had to do some online research when thinking about stereotypes the Japanese people have about Americans. In most places, I found that many think of Americans as having a default western image, that of rich, overtly prideful people who overindulge. I think not only this country, but others around the world can agree with this notion of Americans, including the sense of a materialistic obsession with things like money, unimportant luxuries and food. I think that, similarly to both Adel and others who visit countries other than their own, you don’t necessarily see the whole picture until you step into that country.

The image I’m choosing to use for this assignment is something you may have seen before. It’s an image clip from a Saturday Night Live skit that makes fun of “weeaboo’s.” These are people who are overly obsessed with Japanese culture to the point that most things they talk about are wrong, they’re pronunciation of words are wrong, and they often come across as racist. The skit isn’t funny, so in this case I’m not recommending you watch it.e6716da0b0f86d74492ad2618e219fbe.jpg

Travel Blog 7 & 8 – “World for the Wise” – Parts 1 & 2

Part 1:

For this assignment I chose a political cartoon by a man named Robert Stack, depicting international media looking on at the horrRwanda.jpgors of the Rwandan Genocide. The journalists and news teams represented here aren’t doing anything, they’re simply looking into the “hell” that was the event. The artist’s page I located the cartoon on describes the drawing with a sense of “distance” to the genocide. The cartoon is essentially “criticizing the empirical, distant attitude taken by the international press toward the Rwandan genocide.” (Stack). It’s strange, in that the depiction doesn’t necessarily violate any rights, as people are free to have sort of First Amendment values pertaining to free speech and free press. What it’s showing that’s inherently wrong is the lack of involvement. The people from outside Rwanda, the media and the government had turned their backs on the Rwandan genocide and decided not to intervene, but take photos and display media of those suffering in the country. As a recent example I can think of the issue in Darfur in Sudan, and just how much of a brutal mess it was. I was born in 1994 so I only learned about the Rwandan genocide years after, but in terms of the issue in Sudan, it started in 2003. Even in the third grade and moving on into middle school and eventually high school, I was cognizant of the horrific acts going on there. As we see in the film, “Shake Hands with The Devil,” the genocide was a brutality and what Lt. General Romeo Dallaire calls a failure of humanity. He witnessed the slaughtering of over 800,000 people in 100 days, it’s no surprise he’s haunted by the images engraved in his mind. Who wouldn’t be haunted? It’s crazy to think that he, a Canadian General, went into the situation without prior briefing or even necessary supplies. Both Dallaire and others presented in the film discuss a loss of opportunities between mainly all parties involved. This included the “Third Force,” a young group of militia intended on rebooting and continuing the war. This segment of the film heavily reminded me of the recent Netflix drama, “Beasts of No Nation,” which I urge all of you to go watch. It’s a sad and emotional look at a young African boy who’s ripped away from his family and forced into a brutal military force. Going back to “Shake Hands with The Devil,” the film deals a whole lot on the human element. Questions like what makes someone human, how can humans commit these acts, how do we as humans prevent things like this, etc. etc., are commonplace within the film. As Michael Caine’s Alfred in 2008’s The Dark Knight says, “some people just want to watch the world burn.” It’s a contrived and often-used quote, but I think it certainly rings true in the case of not only the Rwandan genocide, but also the genocides of Sudan and the rest of the world, past and present.

Site for Political Cartoon:

Link to trailer for “Beasts of No Nation” :

(Seriously guys, if you haven’t seen this film, I highly suggest you do.)


Part 2:

I absolutely agree with Slimbach in this section that international study depends a lot on the individual. It’s sort of what everyone says, you get out what you put in. I think if you don’t have an understanding of global awareness and responsibility, you risk yourself becoming a passive tourist, or as Slimbach calls it having a consumerist/entitlement mentality. This attitude produced in the States creates a self-indulgence that gets in the way of true global learning. I truly don’t believe I’ve been caught up in any of this talk or accusations, as I planned from the start to go in with a mature level of responsibility and a wise mindset for global, cultural and social differences. I think the vast majority of us here in my program are like-minded, in that we’re all aware of what needs to happen for ourselves to get the most out of this experience. I think part of the American system conditions people in different ways. It brings about the talk of nature vs. nurture and how we’re brought up, but that seems a bit too general. Part of why the entitlement attitude persists among this generation is because many, as Slimbach points out, are not eager to leave behind their comfortable social atmosphere. This is one reason I think the QU301 November sessions helped to establish that we as students studying internationally have a necessity to break the foundations of what we feel our own cultural norms are and to break this stereotype that Slimbach describes. One way we can encourage the idea to exude a global responsibility to others that have fallen victim to this stereotype is to put other people and other cultures and countries before your own. No matter how much you think you’re the king of the world, you’re not, and there are actual issues facing different societies around the globe. Slimbach’s described attitude hinders greatly on the chance for understanding. “Then, by taking steps to widen our circle of concern, we are free to face the world, not as naïve optimists, but as hopeful realists who embrace the triumphs and tribulations of the human experience.” (Slimbach, 36).

Travel Log 6 – “The Mindful Traveler”

As I begin my second month studying abroad in Japan, I found a lot of what Slimbach has to say in Chapter 3’s Mindful Traveler to be influential, useful and reflective. I feel like he really nails the descriptions and certain actions of those who travel to a country, to be experiencing some culture shock, and resulting in that, a sense of being carefree to all other problems, issues and experiences concerning the journey.

Early in the chapter, Slimbach uses a research group that visits Chiang Mai, Thailand to show an initial mindset of foreign tourists. “Caught in a staged tourist space, the encounters between these parties are almost invariably marked by disparities of power and levels of stereotyping that would not exist among peers.” (Slimbach, 73). While for me personally, I haven’t stereotyped the people of Japan, throughout the introduction to this chapter I feel like the author describes quite nicely the state of mind one finds themselves in during the first few days or even weeks of living in a foreign country. The “carefree drifter,” if you will, spends the initial time soaking everything in, but taking aspects of culture, economics and social norms at face value.

For me personally, I remember first arriving in Japan and spending the initial week adjusting to what I thought were sometimes strange ideas, interesting modes of travel, food, etc., and an overall sense of “huh, this is all very strange.” Settling in to Tokyo, going to class, speaking with individuals who’ve lived here and beginning to understand the implications of my travels have really started to become more and more important. I do feel like there is this sort of threshold to get past and understand that a foreign country, while in itself is definitely foreign, is just another place in the world like yours or mine, with it’s own set of ethics. What I took away from this week’s reading the most was that it’s important to look at the place you live or travel to critically and educationally, which in turn creates a mindful traveler.

Something in the reading that actually bugged me though, had to do with the idea that travelers like the ones pictured in the comic on page 77 exist. In my travels, not just in Japan but in other parts of the world such as South America, I’ve seen the tourists pictured, who place their wants, needs and problems above others who may have less than them. It’s inherently sad (I don’t know about you, but for me it is) to see a wealthy tourist leave their home culture only to proclaim themselves almost as “kings of the world,” and putting themselves before others. Slimbach even titles the next section of the chapter “All About Me?” And in almost every case, it’s not “all about you.” This is one reason why I think Slimbach’s mention of global learning in the global community is so important. Becoming a critical thinker in a foreign country gives people the great gift of perception.

I think our definition for a global community is still one that is present in both my mind and my travels. It’s a shared living space of interdependent individuals endowed with universal human rights, while choosing to act upon them, embracing differences and working toward common goals. I think everything I said before and a lot of what Slimbach has said in Chapter 3 is absolutely true. I don’t think it needs to be changed at all. To conclude, I think some challenges that may inhibit mindful traveling are very similar to those we discussed in this past Fall’s seminar. Things like excessive partying for example, can certainly hinder one’s thoughtful approach to foreign economics, culture, social issues and understanding.

TL14: “Global Connections and Rites of Separation”

In Chapter Two “The Story We Need” Slimbach talks about why individuals choose to study abroad. It is often in a time of intense self exploration and leaving home only intensifies self exploration. He also talks about misadventure abroad of students abroad and how this often discourages others from studying abroad. I agree that there are some who do have misadventures abroad and it is usually because of a lack of social and cultural consciousness but Quinnipiac’s education abroad department prepared all their students for the expected and unexpected of studying abroad.

Moreover, study abroad forces us to change our consciousness. Since being in France, I have become aware of more things, I notice how many homeless sit on the street, if they are with or without children and dogs. I notice people on the metro and on the streets. I notice people in the supermarket and by fruit stands. And my social and security awareness is heightened, I’m not sure if it is because I was in a new environment paired with the security concerns in Europe. But I have also become more conscious of my actions: what I say and do. As Slimbach admits, study abroad is a time for self reflection, and that is exactly what I have done. I’ve looked internally at how I act towards others and how it may be received. I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on this because in France they act differently than they do in the United States and I act differently when I am in Jamaica.

Again, it goes back to what we’ve learnt about the rites of passage. Adaptation is key. I’ve learnt to keep an open mind, by adapting to the situations and environments around me. By acknowledging that with each country comes different learnt behaviours one takes steps in integrating into a new environment and successfully undergoing the rites of passage. In one of our workshops we watched where a Native American girl was going through a ritual of becoming a woman, it was an exhausting and extensive process that required much preparation. But she acknowledged that in fact, she had to lend herself to adaptation. She had to allow herself to leave some of her learnt behaviors, biases and personal reservations behind in order to emerge. Just as she had to leave those things behind, so do study abroad students and so did I. I had to acknowledge that because of where I came from I was coming into my study abroad experience looking at life through a certain lens. And now that my time is coming to a close, I am realizing now how my horizon has broadened and changed.

Slimbach says “if we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” (54) By studying abroad and gaining insight from those who have lived in Paris their entire lives, I have been driven to look within myself and reflect on my own values. In this way, Parisians act as mentors as they help to guide me through my rite of passage. “This does not mean foreign guests and local hosts…swap places.” (Slimbach 54) Though I will never see eye to eye with Parisians they still hold a special place in my heart, by allowing me to be a part of their culture and realize the qualities a global citizen should have. A global citizen should be open minded, not afraid to take risks, willing to engage the other person, and have the ability to self reflect and see what could make them a better person. I will miss Paris, and as a proper farewell, the friends that I have made abroad and I will be having a picnic on a bridge over the Seine, and looking ‘memory locks’ on our favorite bridge. Hopefully my goodbye will do my time abroad justice as it has allowed me to grow greatly as a person.



A picture of me at an intensive macaron class, I had eaten so many this semester, I thought why not learn how to make them!

TL15: “There’s No Place Like Home? Rites of Reincorporation” by Lauren Kantrovitz, in Sudbury MA.

After being home one week, I must be honest, I thought I would have a slightly difficult time reincorporating myself into my native-culture due to people telling me to expect to feel culture-shock coming back. I knew due to the fact that I truly was ready to get back to my native-culture as I missed my friends and family tremendously that I likely wouldn’t experience as much culture shock as others possibly would. However I am surprised that I haven’t had any sense of difficulty doing so. My initial night/day back home, I only spent 12 hours in my house before driving off to school to see my friends the weekend before finals week. I do believe that incorporating myself back into my friends’ and roommates’ lives so quickly after being home and not giving myself time to overthink the unlikely possibilities that they may not care as much as they have made better friendships while I was gone, or that I will have changed too much to identify with my friends the same way prior to traveling abroad. I do believe that I have matured and grown on so many levels however not to the point that I am having difficulty connecting with my friends and family like I was able to before my trip. I think that some people may have difficulty because they want to tell everyone about the life that they have been living for the past four months; a life that people can only remotely imagine thanks to the countless pictures that they have been scrolling through on Facebook for the past few months. On account of this, people don’t have the same enthusiasm and have a narrowed interest towards the subject as you do. I have noticed with friends that I receive the same questions: What is(are) your favorite place(s), what was your favorite experience, do you miss it, etc. Yes, I could go on with those questions and tell them every detail about my trip, but I would lose interest very quickly because naturally people don’t have the interest in learning or listening to a subject that they can’t connect with. Not taking offense to that and knowing that Florence and traveling abroad will always have a special place in my heart, that I can and already have connected with new people on and can help educate people who are interested and one day, help make someone else’s experience great with my thoughts and recommendations towards Europe. What I can say that I do miss immensely about Florence is the ability to walk everywhere I go. That was my favorite aspect of the city as it gave me the opportunity to grow as that is when I explored, learned, and wandered. Unfortunately, the weather has not been optimal my first week home, however I will push myself to get out and take walks while I am home during the months of good weather that are approaching. I of course also miss the wonderful and enormous panini’s that Florence has to offer however I know I can make sandwiches here, maybe not with foccacia bread or fantastic panini makers like that of Florence, however I made sure I bought back some great olives oils and truffle. Travel. Gosh I will miss traveling each weekend and growing from each experience as it provided to learn more about myself in a small period of time than I have ever been able to before. However, I now feel that I have disregarded my own marvelous country and want to take time to appreciate and explore my home-culture as that too, will allow me to grow, learn, and become more independent. As one can see, yes there are many aspects that I will miss, but there were also so many aspects that I missed about home and that I know I can make possible at home as well as incorporating my new interests and knowledge into my home-culture which also makes me proud as I know that means I am successfully permitting the global community to grow.

Although I have not faced many issues a this point reintegrating myself back into my host culture, I also have to acknowledge that based on my trip to Europe, I learned that it may take longer for things to hit me and for me to feel the challenges of integrating myself into a community that I have not lived among for some time. It is possible that evolving into the liminal stage of rites of passage took me longer while abroad due to circumstances and difficulties that I experienced and arose about 3-4 weeks into my travels. However, I am keeping that possibility that I may experience the liminal phase a few weeks from now. Thanks to my difficulties abroad however I have learned to deal with my obstacles in a light that is healthy for myself thus I know that I can successfully do that again.

Coming home, I have experienced a slight feeling of being lost in regard to my future and my goals towards my career. I am not sure that those feelings are solely due to studying abroad as it was due to me feeling pressured to choose my path as I was planning to study for the MCAT this summer and had a lot on my plate after an academically much simpler semester. However I can say that I think my experience abroad pushed me to come to terms with what I really want in life and what I am now contemplating in regard to my career is not the field of study but my work life balance as I think studying abroad really showed me what life and the world has to offer. I want to be able to experience the world and although my career and education is still tremendously important to me, I don’t feel that I have to pretend not to be worried or that it is not okay to feel like I don’t want my career to be my entire life, which is huge for me. Although I am left a bit more lost, I am thankful that I do as I want to choose the right career path for my sanity and I would rather question that path now, than later.

My experience of sharing my reincorporation letter was relieving as I feel that telling people and saying aloud the things in life that you know are in your best interest and right for you is best for anyone’s sake as it drives people to put those thoughts and goals to action. The quote I shared with my parents is by Joseph Rain who said, “The ignorant maintain their existing beliefs, the open-minded explore new avenues, while the educated pursue what is right, better and more beneficial.” I found this quote to be very encapsulating of the person I have become due to my experience as I have learned to be a more open-minded and educated person and will now take the knowledge and approach my life in a manner that will continue to allow me to grow by permitting myself to explore the world and myself further.

I will carry my experience forward by making sure to find the beauty and opportunities within my own community to grow and learn from the people that surround me here. Just because I am in the country that I grew up in, just like I had a significant experience shape me, others have also been touched by experiences that they have learned and grown from which makes us all unique. Every person has a story that may not be apparent from the outside just like until one talks to me, they would have no idea that I have traveled the world and lived in Florence, Italy for four months. I will also continue to explore my career path and what is right for myself. I have decided to put off the MCAT and take one extra year off from medical school to use this summer as an explorative time for me to shadow multiple doctors in different fields, even PA’s as I am contemplating my work-life balance. I am also taking this time to volunteer and find passion in an organization as I feel that the trip has made me into a more selfless person that wants to do more for others. Just because I am no longer in Europe does not mean that my opportunity for self-discovery is over, because for me, it is just beginning just as Rumi said, “And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?”.

Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning.” Stylus. Sterling, Virginia. 2010.

Travel Log 13 “Connecting Rites of Passage and Digital Storytelling” by: Stephen Sharo Dunedin, NZ


I believe that the idea of “rites of passage” has lost its meaning in contemporary society. In their article, “Rites of Passage as a Framework for Community Interventions with Youth” Blumenkratz and Goldstein discuss the how there is a lack of valuable and structured rites of passages for young adults. After my experiences abroad and using the information of this course I couldn’t agree more. The students I have been studying and travelling with all agree that studying abroad is a “special” time in their life. The months we’ve been spending in New Zealand is having a profound effect on our lives. However very few, if any, would see our experiences as a “rite of passage.” These young people understand how important their experiences abroad are, but they do not view them from a rites of passage lens.

My prior exposure with the rites of passage workshop allowed me to appreciate my transition into New Zealand culture. My program The Education Abroad Network was successful in utilizing the rites of passage framework to help us adapt to our new country. We entered the separation phase by entering a remote island in Fiji where we were unable to contact our families or friends for days. The liminality phase occurred when they dropped us off at our houses and gave us some basic information about the city. Eventually we successfully transitioned to Dunedin life together. Our personal experience demonstrated how useful the rites of passage model is for key moments in life. Furthermore after discussing with other students who did go through the rites of passage model seemed to have a more difficult transition. They either did not separate entirely from home or did not fully adapt to life in New Zealand.

Some of the elements of the rites of passage which will enhance my digital story are the aspects of program success relying on relationships and only going as far as you have gone yourself. The adult and the youths in the program must have a deep relationship and the adult must also have a clear understanding of the program in order for a successful rite of passage. The adult must have gone through the experience his or her self.  I think that I will incorporate this as a theme relating to my older friends. As a prior study abroad students they experienced the rite of passage themselves and gave me advice to help me with a successful study abroad experience. They provided me tips on traveling, plans that worked or failed for them, and explained some of the feelings I might experience.

Two other themes which will greatly enhance my digital story are adversity and personal challenge and the connection with the environment. Adversity and personal experience provides personal growth through challenges and obstacles. These barriers provide new skills and allow the person an opportunity to enhance themselves. Also the connection to nature demonstrates the relationship between people and the environment and garners an appreciation for the outdoors.  These themes are especially useful to me based off of the activities I have done in New Zealand. Many of my experiences here have been “firsts” and provided unique challenges that I have never faced. For example I tried surfing for the first time once I arrived in New Zealand and took all weekend to learn how to stand up on the board. Moreover many of my experiences have been outdoor activities. I will definitely mention my experiences outdoors, the challenges I faced, and my appreciation for nature in my digital story.

The digital story that resonated with me the most was Michael’s. The focus of his story was community and related it to the friends he made. The relationships he made overseas is what made his experience so worthwhile and those relationships formed a community. I think that the story was so successful because throughout the course we focused on what makes a community and Michael related it back to rites of passage and showed how the two are interconnected.

Travel Log 11: “Holding up Half the Sky” by Abby Spooner. Dunedin New Zealand

The documentary Half the Sky emphasizes the basic human rights we over look and take for granted every day. It is easy for us to assume that Human Rights are readily available to all because they are readily available to us. However, in reality there is a large population of the world where what we call human rights are a right only for the wealthy and privileged. In many ways this film was a call to action in which the viewer is meant to walk away determined and willing to make a difference. Although the film was painful at times, it is necessary for all of us to recognize these issues because without popular support, nothing will change.

A moment in the documentary that stuck out to me was footage of a protest where an Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 10.16.55 AMindividual is holding a sign that says, “Women’s Right are Human Rights.” When human rights do not include all they are merely words on a page. In order for human right to exist we must act, we must fight for those who cannot. Half the Sky asks us to do this, to stand by those who cannot fight for themselves, to fight for those who have suffered more than anyone should ever suffer, and to show these girls the love and respect they deserve. We can no longer ignore these issues simply because they are not happening to us. We mustn’t stop until everyone has the right to every component of the Human Rights Declaration.

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 11.54.22 AMAlthough I sincerely agree that everyone in the world should have basic human right, there was one story in particular that got me thinking about the impact religion can have on these rights. America Ferreira traveled to India to learn about the problems surrounding the Indian caste system. This was particularly interesting to me because all semester I have been taking a class on Hinduism. During lecture we discussed the caste system in India and its relation to Hindu society in India. My lecturer presented the caste system in a way that suggested it was a vital and important aspect of Hindu society. Controversy around the issue was mentioned. However, the focus of the lecture was on the Hindu world-view. Within their society the caste system is seen as a vital and ancient tradition. Castes are deeply connected to the religion in that the upper class are the ones that have the right to learn their ancient text such as the Veda and worship the many high gods such as Shiva and Vishnu. Everything about their way of life is structured around the caste system; for example, the way the villages are arranged segregate castes, the daily jobs and tasks are distributed between each caste (the untouchables receiving the most unwanted of all such as dealing with the human waste). Additionally, Hindus believe in rebirth, those who are bourn into a lower class are believed to be there as a result of past life wrong doings. As a result they believe that if you please the Gods through devotion and worship you can be bourn into a higher class in the next life.

In many cases, women are worse off than untouchable men because they are always, even within the high classes, thought of as less than. This was another misleading topic in my lecture. We were taught that from the viewpoint of a Hindu, women were meant to be less than and that many high-class Hindu women regard our ideas of equality as childish and wrong. My lecturer spoke about how interviews had been conducted with many Hindu women and all of then laughed at the idea of equality; they believe that the gods created women to be the caretakers, there only to please the aspirations of men.

Before watching Half the Sky this was the only information I had about the caste system and Hindu women, I believed my lecturer when he said this was a vital for the structure of Hindu society. However, after watching the documentary it is clear that this structure of society violates the basic human rights of the lower classes. Many individuals, not only women, are deprived of their right to own property, marry who they want to, or have a decent well paying job. Half the Sky explores the lowest of the low, untouchable women. It is evident that human rights are being violated as a result of the caste system, many are forced into marriages at a young age and if that does not happen or work out, they are forced into ruthless jobs such as prostitution, selling their bodies for survival. As a westerner on the outside looking in, this seems wrong. We have grown up on the philosophy that all are created equal. This is not how Hindus are raised, and who are we to say their religion is wrong? Is it our place to encourage religious reform within a religion we do not ourselves believe in? In fact, in Article 18 of the Declaration of Human Rights it specifically states that everyone has the right to religion. Therefore, if the caste system is a central aspect of the Hindu tradition are we then violating Human Right by encouraging caste reform? Neither way is correct from a Human Rights perspective; either religious rights are violated, or equal rights for women and low castes are violated.

What can be done? How do we ensure the right to religion but also the right to equality and healthy living conditions? I believe that change in regards to human rights can be achieved through education. This would not change individual’s castes or social status but it will change the jobs they can get and their quality of life. As a Physical Therapy Major this endeavor may not directly relate to my major. However, education is a central part of my life and I would love nothing more than to be able to spread what I have been blessed to learn with others. I believe that education has and will continue to change the world. This is the case for many of the stories featured in Half the Sky, if we educate young women on health and safety in addition to traditional teaching such as reading and math we would change lives. If more young men in these countries were educated in the same way, maybe less would be on the streets hurting and violating these girls. As westerners it is not our job to change the culture and structure of society within these struggling nations. It is however our moral responsibility to promote and ensure everyone has access to basic human rights; and I believe education is the best way preserve a nations culture but also guarantee human rights.

Travel Log 9: “Exploring Stereotypes” by Brandon Lyons – Florence, Italy

This past weekend I traveled to Dublin, Ireland with a friend of mine. It was undoubtedly one of my favorite weekends abroad, as Ireland is where a lot of my family is from and I have many memories and personal experiences related to the culture and traditions of the Irish people. One of my most memorable experiences I had was our dinner on Saturday night, during which we had a lengthy conversation with a woman from Australia. It all started when we ordered our dinner and the woman at the table next to us recognized our American accent. She told us that she was visiting from Australia and began to ask us about our abroad experience and our travels this semester, after which the conversation then turned towards cultural stereotypes and our views of each other’s cultures. During this exchange I learned a lot about both the Australian culture and Australian’s views of Americans. For example, I learned that many Australians take a gap year before college to travel and see the world. The woman we spoke with had actually traveled a significant amount herself, having been to the United States, Canada, Mexico and most of the places I have traveled to this semester. She had even been to places in the U.S that I have never even traveled to such as California and the Grand Canyon. The woman did seem to have a negative attitude towards the U.S and more specifically the American government, citing the fact that there are American troops stationed in Australia. I was not so much surprised by her attitude towards the American government, but I was surprised by the tone with which she was able to speak towards us about our own country. The woman was very nice to us personally and gave us some great advice about places to see while in Europe, but the way she spoke about our home country and culture came across as almost disrespectful and said things that I personally would feel uncomfortable saying to someone else about their home country. There is a quote by Lyndon B. Johnson I read during our workshop at Quinnipiac that really stuck with me during my time abroad. It says: “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” Although our conversation was a bit uncomfortable for me at times, it was definitely a great learning experience.

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”

Stereotypes have definitely been a very big part of my study abroad experience, especially in a country like Italy that has such a large cultural presence in my home state of New Jersey. I am constantly faced with stereotypes both of Americans by Italians and of Italians by Americans. For example, I often find myself faced with the stereotype that Americans are not familiar with the Italian culture. When I try speaking to locals in Italian, they often respond to me in English not knowing that I am familiar with the language. This is a stereotype that sometimes takes away from my abroad experience and my attempt to embrace the culture. On the other hand, I have realized that a lot of stereotypes that we Americans have about Italians are also untrue. For example, Italians don’t always eat pizza and drink wine and many Italians are actually a lot more modern than the stereotype we have of Italians as very old-fashioned people.Mafia pic

One of the biggest stereotypes that exists of Italians among Americans is the idea that all Italians are in the mafia. This is a stereotype that has existed for many years, and has been fueled by the Hollywood film industry with movies such as The Godfather. My time here in Italy has taught me that this is actually a very sensitive subject for Italians and that not all Italians are in the mafia. The mafia actually originated in southern Italy and is almost unheard of here in Florence. Something interesting that I have learned about Italy is that although it is politically unified, there are actually many different cultures that exist within Italy. The food, dialects, architecture, history and traditions that one finds in, for example, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples will be almost completely different. This comes from the fact that Italy was not unified until 1861, so many of the stereotypes that exist for all Italians are actually only true for a certain area. When I head back to the U.S. my knowledge of the actuality behind our stereotypes of others will definitely change the way I view other cultures.