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 3: “Betwixt and Between…So This is Liminality” By Taylor Chelo. Perugia, Italy

Buongiorno, amicis (Good Morning, friends). A week of stay here in Perugia, Italy is already in the books…wow. Although it has only been a week, so much has happened aboard this emotional rollercoaster we call the Rite of Passage study abroad experience. I have met so many people, learned so much about the traveling process and the Italian culture, and, most importantly, learned so much more about myself. However, the one way I came across these lessons was through facing unforeseen challenges as a liminoid.

Goodbyes and separation at Logan Airport were going smoothly until it came time to say goodbye to my parents. As soon as their eyes filled with tears, mine followed suit. As hard as it was to say goodbye to them for the next four months, I knew that my Separation Letter that they saved to open for their car ride home would put them at ease and dry their tears. Last but most certainly not least of the goodbyes was my boyfriend, Chris. We have talked extensively regarding my four months abroad prior to this moment, especially how we need to rely on trust, support, and love in order to make it through. The trusting foundation we have built these past four months of being together definitely facilitated saying goodbye to him. We both mutually know that as much as I will love this experience abroad, this love will never come close to the love we have for each other.

My excitement for the upcoming semester abroad overshadowed the fact that I have never traveled alone before, nor have I ever been to Europe. The first leg of my flight was successful until I reached London Heathrow to prepare for my connecting flight. It turned out that my luggage was not checked-in for the second leg of my flight to Rome. Although I had a four hour layover with plenty of time to spare, I panicked over the thought of losing two full suitcases of belongings. I did not want to wake my parents and cause them distress (it was 5am in London, but midnight in the U.S.), so I called my boyfriend who was awake for help since, at the time, I was too overwhelmed to understand how I needed to solve the problem at hand and clearly explain it to a nearby information desk. I finally calmed down as I waited in line to reclaim my baggage and undergo the security process one last time for the second leg of my flight. This baggage mishap was when I felt like a liminoid who was “betwixt and between,” slowly progressing from Separation to Liminality. I was in the United Kingdom planning to depart for my final destination, yet I was relying on help from home to help me calmly take the next step.

Liminal beings, like myself, often participate in communitas–otherwise known as unlikely friends facing challenges together. Even Slimbach in Chapter 6: Living With Paradox tells his readers, “Expect to encounter gurus, companions, and mentors along the way” (Slimbach 164). To my surprise, as I waited to board the second leg of my flight (from London to Rome), I met a girl named Dara who was also on her way to study at the Umbra Institute with me. I took this opportunity to get to know her, as well as her reason for studying abroad. It also gave me someone to confide in for support along the rest of our travels. I also met an elderly Catholic priest in the same gate who overheard me and Dara’s excitement to study abroad. As a Roman Catholic myself, I viewed this second unlikely friendship as a comforting sign that the remainder of my travels would go smoothly–and they did.

My communitas began to grow as I was greeted at the Rome airport by two young Umbra Institute interns holding green signs that marked my final destination, a group of fellow Umbrian students sitting together behind them. We all welcomed one another and got to know each other better both on the bus ride to Hotel Gio (the hotel we would stay in that night before heading to the Umbra Institute the next day) and throughout our temporary stay there. My comfort and excitement was at its peak until it slowly sank during the night at Hotel Gio. I felt stuck in this unfamiliar place and began feeling homesick, in need of the familiar to comfort me during this “betwix and between” phase of Liminality. As Slimbach writes in Chapter 6: Living With Paradox, “…culture shock implies a state of relatively short-term emotional, mental, and physical dis-ease that we suffer when transitioning from an environment in which we have learned how to function effortlessly and successfully to one where we have not” (Slimbach 153). Since I was experiencing these kinds of emotions, I decided the best thing to do was confide in Ardra, the girl who was not only my roommate in my hotel room that night, but also my roommate for the semester at Umbra. Ardra truly became an unlikely friend that night and for the remainder of that week in Perugia. She has had a great deal of experience traveling and being away from her family, so she was so supportive when I broke down. I am so glad I shared my feelings with her, and I will never forget what she told me: “As soon as tomorrow comes and we are at Umbra, you will feel at home. This, too, shall pass, Tay.”

Thanks to building communitas so early on in my Liminality phase, I have made my apartment my home away from home. I have come to terms with the fact that the only thing that stands between me and my experience are my thoughts and emotions. After going to church this past Sunday with some other members of my communitas, I decided that I would begin writing in my journal. The last few paragraphs that I wrote last night about my first week here reflect how my personal strengths and weaknesses have influenced my time here thus far:

I made myself at home, packing away my familiar clothes into unfamiliar drawers, hanging familiar coats and scarves in unfamiliarly tall closets, draping my Rhode Island flag over my IMG_0338unfamiliar Italian desk, placing my Rosary beads from my heart surgeries with the handwritten farewell letter from my parents inside my unfamiliar nightstand drawer, fitting the pillowcase with my family on it on my unfamiliar pillow where I would rest my head and all other thoughts and feelings that would fuel this emotional rollercoaster called my Rite of Passage, called study abroad, called my temporary home.

It truly amazes me how these waves of positive and negative emotion can come back like deja vu as you recall them through the pen. As challenging as it was to reach my final destination, I look back on all the lessons I have learned: about travelling; about how fortunate I am to live such a privileged life back in the States, filled with the most incredible people who have loved and supported me every step of the way; about love and how distance truly makes the heart grow fonder; about how perfectionists like myself struggle the most when it comes to adapting to change and coping with culture shock; about how I need to expect the unexpected; about how gaining a sense of direction starts by losing direction and jumping into the unfamiliar–not all who wander are lost; about how cliche quotes are so incredibly true; about how there is a good in goodbye, a strength in weakness, a light in the dark, and a smile after every tear.

There was a time earlier on in this journey when I was honestly counting down the days until April 29th, until my return home. However, as I scrolled through my Instagram feed not too long ago, I came across an ironically appropriate post by one of my friends. She posted a picture of a staircase with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that read ‘Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.’ My friend’s caption below this picture was: ‘Usually the most rewarding experiences in life are the most challenging.’ Although the beginning of my study abroad experience has been hard, I know that, with faith, I will be able to take the steps toward making my time in Perugia one I will never forget, nor ever regret.

I decided to display the same picture that I came across the night I wrote this journal entryScreen Shot 2016-01-14 at 3.03.54 PM. It best describes my journey to date because, like my unexpected challenges that I faced with my luggage and my homesickness, I cannot see what this journey has in store for me beyond today. I need to take my experience one step at a time in order to cherish my time here before it slips away and effectively immerse myself in the Italian culture. Now that I have undergone and learned from my challenges, I have used a few strategies “to invite the unknown.” On one of the sunniest days this week, I went by myself for a walk around local Perugia with my Canon camera to capture its beauty. Although my sense of direction is not the keenest, one of my goals for studying abroad was to sharpen it. As I made my way down both familiar and unfamiliar roads, I successfully navigated my way back to my apartment without feeling lost or unsafe. I not only took a step toward achieving my goal of gaining confidence in my sense of direction, but I also took a step toward appreciating the little


Via Del Dvca, Perugia, Italy

charms of Perugia, like the colorful art district decorated with remnants of the Natale (Christmas) celebrations that I came across along my walk.

Many of my friends here are so eager to travel that they are already planning on going outside of the country this weekend. The thought of this overwhelms me since I am still getting the lay of the land around here. I need to take my traveling experience slowly, but surely. I plan on going for more walks with members of my communitas this weekend throughout Perugia and in the neighboring town of Assisi. I have come to realize that I am always in fast forward, just like the culture is in America. In Italy, on the other hand, they take their time, are very laid back, and live to work instead of working to live. Taking in the sounds, smells, and scenes of Perugia on my walks allow me to clear my


The breathtaking view of Perugia, Italy from my apartment’s living room.

mind, reflect, and enjoy the present moment. Taking my journal with me has allowed me to do so, as well. It has especially allowed me to be honest with myself and reveal any thoughts or emotions that are hiding in the recesses of my mind. I have faith that my strategies to take this Liminality phase one step at a time with my network of communitas will help me to immerse further into the Italian culture and make this place my home away from home.

Travel Log 14: “ Global Connections & Rites of Separation” by Danielle Godley. Florence, Italy.

I’m not ready to leave Italy, these are the 6 words that I have been muttering for the last few weeks as the semester is coming to a close. As sad as I am to leave I am also excited that in the past 4 months I have been able to grow as a person, a friend, and a daughter. I know that I am not the same person who came to here 4 months ago. I have learned about new cultures, met new friends, and also learned a lot about myself. As Slimbach states, “The dynamics involved in rediscovering our true self and learning to embrace strangers within our field settings necessarily focuses our attention on the conscious choices that we, as individuals, make to think and act in certain ways” (59). By embracing strangers I was able to learn more about the city then by reading a book. Some of my most memorable experiences in Italy have been with my friend who was born and raised in Florence. He was able to share with me the unique stories of the cities, as well as the ways Florentine’s do things and why. Most importantly I was able to get a glimpse into the way people in Italy view Americans and our country as a whole. Before I came to Florence I never gave art a second look, in fact I often found it silly and overrated. After studying some of these works I have learned that art is one of the most important things in the world. Not only does art tell a story about history and the people of its time, but it also unites us still today. I am excited to go home to be able to share my new experiences with my family and friends. By studying abroad I was able to become student of the global community, and I hope to encourage those to study abroad as well.

I often feel guilty as my time is winding down that I am not ready to go back. My mom has had a countdown to when she could hug me and my best friend is already setting up Chipotle dates but leaving Italy will be very difficult for me. The new friendships, the familiar faces, and even the strengthening of old friendships are something that I will miss about being here. My best friends live just down the block and are readily at my fingertips to climb the Duomo at the drop of a hat. As my time here is winding down we are hitting out favorite restaurants and attending our favorite spots one last time.

Slimback states that, “As educational travelers, our first and perhaps most challenging task is to allow our host culture to become a place where we can struggle against the fictional self that is revealed through our feelings of ignorance, inadequacy, and childlike independence” (55). It is by allowing ourselves to become vulnerable that we are able to finally learn and grow as a person in our new home. I can’t count the number of times that I have had to ask for help since being in Italy. Whether it be if I was asking how to use drain cleaning to unclog the shower drain in my broken Italian or asking what tasted good with truffle spread on a panini. By allowing myself to be vulnerable I was able to really learn about the city and the culture around me. I learned to enjoy my espresso standing up, and not to order a cappuccino after 12pm. More importantly I learned about how generous and kind the people around me truly are. I made connections with people not only in Italy but also in other cities in Europe that I have been lucky enough to travel to. Another important part about becoming vulnerable is allowing yourself to try and let go of your fear. By doing this I was able to paraglide over the Swiss Alps, cave in Budapest, segway in Prague, and try to learn to surf in Lisbon, and swim in the blue grotto. These memorable experiences are ones that I will never forget as long as I live.

Tomorrow night I will walk up to Piazza Michelangelo for the last time since I arrived here just a few short months ago. My roommates and I are all planning on going together followed by a family dinner with about 20 of our friends. Watching the sunrise from this part of town is the most perfect way to end my time here in Florence. This spot gives you a view of the entire city below allowing us to reminisce on the streets where we got lost, gave directions, and fell in love with the city below. I will forever be thankful to Florence and its people for this experience has truly changed my life.

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” –Martin Burber. This quote sums up my adventure abroad these last 4 months. Most of my most memorable experiences here have been when I least expected them to occur. The spontaneity and vulnerability that I allowed myself experience during this time is something that I hope to take back to America with me.



Travel Log 12: “Community Service” By Kayla Vitas. Sevilla, Spain.

Before arriving in Spain, I set a few goals for myself that I wanted to accomplish before returning home to America. One of these goals was to interact with Spanish speaking students in order to teach them Spanish and also learn some things from them. I have always loved being around children and in the future I want to work with children. However, due to having six hours of classes on Tuesday’s and Thursdays and often traveling to different countries from Friday to Monday, I had trouble making time to volunteer at a school. This blog post was the perfect opportunity for me to fully immerse myself in the community and to experience a different aspect of Spain that I was not used to. What better way to learn about the Spanish culture through something you are passionate about?

During the second week of being abroad, one of my program directors emailed all study abroad students with information on how to volunteer in elementary schools. Two of my friends participated in volunteering at one of the schools and always talked positively about their experiences. Unfortunately, the only options that were emailed to us were on Tuesday and Thursday’s, during the time I was in class. This past week, I decided to ask my program director for the contact information for one of the school’s and requested to help out on a day that I was available. In just a short period of time I was emailed back by a very nice woman named Mercedes and she told me that Wednesday would work perfect for her. Although I was very excited to volunteer and experience elementary schools in Spain, I was also very nervous that I would be unable to communicate with them.

When arriving at Colegio Huerta de Santa Marina, I was shocked to see that I have walked by the school over a dozen times when exploring Sevilla. Automatically, this made me feel much more comfortable before entering. Mercedes greeted me with a big smile on her face and made me feel very welcomed. She told me that I would be meeting with an English teacher named Pilar Gonzalez and helping out in her classroom. Pilar spoke wonderful English and told me that I would do some speaking and listening with the students. As soon as I met the kids in the classroom I was overwhelmed with smiles and waves from each and every student.

Volunteering in another country not only benefits the community but also benefits you as an individual. When walking out of the school, I could not help but smile. I was speechless with the memories I made and the people I met in such a short amount of time. Not only did the children contribute to giving me one of the most amazing experiences I have had in Sevilla, but I know I was able to contribute to making their day. I have never received so many smiles and thank you’s in one day. Although I was very happy leaving the school, I was also very sad at the same time. I really wish that I took the time in the beginning of the semester to volunteer once a week, even though I was constantly busy and wanted a day to. It was truly an amazing experience to see how much I was impacted by such a young group of kids.

Before volunteering at the school I thought it was going to be something I struggled with. However, I was immediately proven wrong when I entered the classroom. With almost three months in Sevilla, I have seen that language barriers can limit individuals from doing a lot of things but together we made our time together work. Even though, the children were young, they were very patient with me and I was able to do the same with them.

“The first step in this journey is to venture outside our comfort zones and get involved directly and personally in the lives of others, especially those occupying the margins of society…to create respectful and mutually beneficial relationships.”

This quote by Richard Slimbach perfectly describes my volunteering experience. To be honest, since studying abroad in Sevilla I have done mostly everything with one of my friends from Quinnipiac. However, this was one of my first experiences in Sevilla of doing something alone and stepping completely out of my comfort zone. This is the reason I chose to add this picture to my travel log.

I was proud that I was able to take a leap of faith in order to have an experience that I wouldn’t had had if I didn’t take this opportunity.

Travel Log 12: Community Service. By Leah Chernick. Paris, France.

I cannot walk more than a few steps in Paris, without seeing a homeless person on the street. Each day on my way to school I see the same homeless people in the same exact spots begging for money and trying to merely survive. At this point, I almost have them memorized, sitting on the street with a cup in their hand next to a folded cardboard sign that says “Bonjour. J’ai faim. S.V.P. (si vous plais).” It is in our natural instinct not to give them money, but I can’t help but wonder how difficult their lives really must be. The number of homeless people in Paris is truly astonishing, from people living on the streets to inside the metro, there has a to be a better solution to minimize the amount of homeless people living in this city. I had hoped in finding an organization that had helped house or feed the homeless, and luckily was able to do so.

Researching and finding a organization to volunteer with was somewhat of a difficulty, but in the end it was totally worth it. Most of the charity and organizations sites are all in French so finding an organization that was somewhat English speaking was a bit of a struggle. Luckily my abroad program was eager and helpful in coordinating and placing me to volunteer with Restos du Coeur. They offer different sectors of help to the homeless such as feeding, housing, and employment. Due to my lack of French, Cecile, an English speaking woman from Restos du Coeur, found I would be most helpful helping out with food, as many of the other areas of volunteer work have to with filling out forms for housing and employment. Cooking is a universal, in that everyone can cook and help out feed the homeless regardless of my language barrier.

Facial expression and body movement was largely a way for me to communicate during my community service, and also in my everyday life communicating with people in Paris. The French facial expression usually consists of a straight face and no eye contact. Smiles are not as common as they are in the US nor is making eye contact with strangers. However, when communicating with someone who you do not speak the same language as, I have learned that a sincere smile goes a long way, and usually people realize it as geniality. My friends and I have adapted to this much to French people’s body movements and facial expressions. I quickly learned that it is not them being rude it is just the way their culture is. In public I have adapted to minimal eye contact and facial expression to avoid miscommunication, as sometimes a smile can be thought as an “invitation.” My friends and I have adapted to these differences in order to better fit in with our surroundings and not become targets. Talking loudly and laughing and smiling on the metro simply make us look like targets, so we have adapted to what the French do and stare in to space with a blank face. While volunteering I used body movements and facial expressions even more to understand and communicate with people. It was a great tool to use while cooking food, because I often did not understand what they were saying. While delivering meals to the shelter center, I was surprisingly overwhelmed by the amount of smiles I saw. The homeless were very grateful of our help and a smile symbolized graciousness.

Volunteering is a great way to become more involved in one’s community, through helping out others. Service work especially while living in another country shows great respect, generosity and desire to become involved in a community where you are not one of their culture. My efforts to volunteer showed the French people that Americans have the desire to become involved and help a less fortunate community. Service work relates to our class constructed definition of the Global Community, as you accept and support one another in all parts of the world and embrace each other’s diversity for the betterment of society. We were accepting and supportive of each other’s diversity regardless of language, culture, or social class.

Some key points that I took away from this service experience was that you can still be involved and help out the community even if you are not of their culture or even speak their language. After volunteering I had a great feel good feeling inside of me. I couldn’t help but walk away with a big smile on my face. Taking part in service work impacted my experience as an individual abroad, as it made me feel like I went above and beyond a typical abroad student’s experience. It made be feel good to know I was able to help out just one day of my life to the homeless I see begging on the streets everyday.


I chose the picture to depict my community service, as this was the look I saw on so many homeless people’s faces when we served them meals. The quote I chose to go with the picture is “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This quote relates to my experience, because even though I was an outsider in this situation and did not speak the language and was not of French culture, I was still able to serve the less fortunate people of Paris.

Travel Log 13 ” Rights of Passage and the Art of Storytelling” by Danielle Godley. Florence, Italy.

Growing up my family often made fun of me because of my love for the story of Peter Pan, the boy who never wanted to grow up. What could be so bad about staying a kid forever? When you are young you look at teenagers and think wow I can’t wait to be that age to drive and be in high school. The funny thing is that once you hit high school or college you find yourself wishing the time would slow down. Everyday that goes by in Italy is one day closer to be going home, a reality in which I am not ready to face. I need more time to explore, more time to learn the language, and more time to make new friends. I know I cannot turn back time, so everyday I wakeup and appreciate being here a little bit more. Everyday I have an opportunity to impact the community around me in a positive way or to become just a little bit wiser.

“A modern day rite of passage is achieved when parents and the community create and participate in experiences which are perceived to be transformative by youth and, in fact, offer them increased status within the community and facilitate their healthy transition through adolescences” (43). Since living in Florence I have come to realize how influential the community can be on a person’s right of passage. When I go to restaurants I see families and friends of all ages sitting and enjoying not just their meals together but also each other’s company. They sip wine, eat, laugh, and most importantly just talk to each other. Sometimes people sit at their table for hours and you can tell that they truly want to be with each other. Parents are the most important people your life, but with the right community they can influence you just as much through rites of passage. As stated in the passage, “ When the community creates and enacts a rite of passage story for their children, they are really creating a way to remember what the important ingredients are for a healthy psychological sense of community essential for positive youth development” (47). A child who is nurtured in a safe community has a better chance of going through a rite of passage then those who do not have that opportunity.

At home a rite of passage would be considered a license, a sweet 16, or legally drinking at 21. Although these are all very important milestones in one’s life I’m not sure if I consider them rites of passage. As I study abroad and go through the phases of separation and liminality I realize that this experience is a real right of passage. As silly as it sounds I am already worried about my incorporation phase and I am not even home yet. I am extremely grateful that I am able to take this class due to that fact that I now have guidelines to understand my journey and what lies ahead. The Paradigm shift, community values and ethics, and giving away one’s previous attitudes are topics I hope to address in my digital story. As I attempt to ride bikes in the park, sit in the Boboli Gardens reading, or walk up to Piazza Michelangelo with friends a sunset I feel a change in myself and my attitude. Coming abroad has been what I expected and more. It is here that I experience true happiness, and have many “moments” as my roommates and I call them. I cannot wait to share my experience here in my digital story for everyone to see.

The digital story that really touched me was Rachael Cox’s. I loved how she discussed the blossoms as her transformation abroad. Her story evoked emotion in me and I thought of her and her neighbor and their goodbye. I could relate to what Rachael said when she discussed a transformation inside herself. I hope that when I am done with my digital story it is as beautiful and Rachael’s.

Travel Log 11: “Half the Sky” by Kayla Vitas. Sevilla, Spain.

When pushing the first DVD of Half the Sky, into my laptop, I was unaware of the powerful message it was truly going to convey. Half the Sky brings six well-known celebrities in America to developing countries to speak to and learn from woman and young girls that face oppression in their everyday lives. This documentary made it clear that people are so easy to write off situations such as sex trafficking in places such as Cambodia due to their level of poverty. Although it may not be as severe, these people are unaware that sex trafficking also happens in United States. It was very difficult to watch the whole four hours of the documentary and to see the trauma that many women experience. It was even worse to know that as this is affecting millions of lives, people are unaware of these problems at the same time.

It was very upsetting to me that if a young girl of a family is a victim of sex trafficking, she is looked at as shameful to the family and often kicked out and abandoned by her family. This shocked me because I would think that families would be fully sympathetic of their daughters rather than turn against them and leave them with no love and support. When seeing all the love and support that the young girls got, from not only the organizations but also the celebrities, was very moving. It was comforting seeing familiar faces, such as American Ferrera and Eva Mendes, traveling to different countries in order to help talk and mentor the girls. With having well-known celebrities involved in this problem and experiencing their stories, it will help other countries become educated on sex trafficking and spread the knowledge.

All of the stories in the documentary were very powerful, but the one seemed to jump out at me that most was with celebrity, Meg Ryan. She went and visited a life changing woman, named Somaly Mam in Cambodia who was the creator of an organization that takes in young girls who have been previously sex trafficked. It was devastating to hear Somaly talk about sex trafficking in Cambodia. She explained that it should not be called “trafficking” but rather “slavery.” This is because the girls are literally bought and sold. Although hearing these stories was absolutely heartbreaking, I was able to put a smile on my face when seeing how much the young girls look up to Somaly. She focuses on giving the children love, affection, happiness, the opportunity to go to school and the guidance to find a job. Somaly was trafficked as a young girl and thinks of the young girls as the same person as her due to the fact that they all went through the same life trauma. She was able to escape after being trafficked for several years and started her organization to help guide and mentor young girls. She hopes that one day, the girls will  t follow in her footsteps and contribute to making a change. Her mission is to help the victims of sex slavery become survivors.

A certain part of Somaly’s story that stuck out to me was part of the organization called Voices for Change. This organization has young girls talk about their stories and educate people on sex trafficking. It focuses on educating men on the importance of not patronizing brothels and respecting woman. One girl who especially stood out to me was abused so badly in a brothel, she no longer had her left eye. This complication has not held her back, but rather helped her move forward. She was extremely brave talking in front of large groups of people and I was amazed with her confidence. Somaly said, “If people do not want to listen, I will not stop.” In order for victims to be heard, Somaly and the young girls have created a radio station so that young victims can share their stories to many people. I think the advances that Somaly and the young girls have taken is extraordinary and a big step in educating the world about oppression.

Being a psychology major, an individual in my field of study could positively contribute to this world wide issue in many ways. Getting into the field of clinical psychology, you at least have the idea in your head that you want to help an individual/individuals in their lives. Whether it be overcoming a fear, dealing with a trauma in their life, or working with a specific psychological disorder. We are all aimed at helping an individual overcome an obstacle in their life. Someone in my field of study could go talk to young girls who have been sex trafficked and help them cope and deal with the traumas that they were faced with previously in their life.

Travel Log 11: “Half the Sky” by Leah Chernick. Paris, France.

After watching Half of the Sky I was speechless. Half of the Sky is brings the reader into the real world with stories of the oppression and social issues women and girls living in developing countries face. It is a truly eye opening documentary that brings you into the lives of what women are facing in developing countries. Half of the Sky made me realize how many freedoms I take for granted, whether is be the ability to walk down the street without any dangers or fresh running water. Many of the issues these women and girls are facing are due to the fact that their culture does not believe in women’s rights. They are deprived of many basic rights I take for granted, such as education and proper health and medical services.

All too often we are aware of such oppression issues of women and girls in developing countries such as sexual violence, but put them to the back of our mind. We realize that these issues are happening around the world, but most of us don’t take the time to explore them or invest ourselves in activism with the issues. Much too often with issues we are self absorbent in the fact that we think in the mentality “if its not my problem why should I care.” A great aspect about this book was not only did it make me realize how prevalent and heart wrenching these issues are but also how to become involved in helping solve these issues by just helping out one person’s life.

Rape is a major issue worldwide from women, such as the cases in Half the Sky to college campuses. This social issue that was a theme throughout Half the Sky really hit home for me because last semester my journalism classmates and I did a semester long project on sexual violence on college campuses It is totally overlooked and put under the cover. We know its happening around us, but do little to promote the education of sexual violence and also the lack of reporting of such rape and sexual violent acts are completely overlooked. The amount of these acts that go unreported on college campuses let alone in developing countries is truly disgusting and disgraceful to our own selves. One of the reasons rape incidents go unreported is because women are afraid to speak up or don’t know who to go to. This is certainly true on college campuses and in developing countries, there is no place to speak up about such acts. Chapter three, “Learning to Speak Up” was about certainly insightful of what women around the world need to be doing to put an end to sexually violence acts. It shared the story of Usha, a very strong, educated young woman and her fight against Akku Yadav who ruled a gang who controlled Kasturba Nagar in India. Akku Yaday terrorized Kasturba Nagar with disgustingly violent and sexually violent acts to women and girls in Kasturba Nagar. Usha was strong and intelligent and despite Akku Yaday’s threats and terroristic acts to her and fought against his acts to the women of Kasturba Nagar to end this terroristic reign. “Empowerment” is a cliché in the aid community, but it is truly what is needed. The first step toward greater justice is to transform that culture of female docility and subservience, so that women themselves because more assertive and demanding” (53). It is women like Usha who stood up for what was right and demanded an end to Akku Yaday. Women in developing countries need more women like Usha or a band of women who promote their basic human rights and revolutionize themselves. Without women like Usha, no one will stand up for these women to protect them of what they deserve. As a Communications major, getting the message out is a vital role in helping change social issues globally. Raising awareness through different channels of communications is one way we can help put an end to women’s oppression in developing countries.

Travel Log 7: “Wise for the World” Part 1 by Ariel Olivieri. Dunedin, New Zealand.

The cartoon I chose depicts a man and a woman walking out of a theatre after viewing the movie “Hotel Rwanda”. The man states “I can’t believe the world stood by and did nothing!” and the woman replies “I can’t either… when do you think the movie ‘Hotel Sudan’ will be released?”. The movie “Hotel Rwanda” is a true-story about a hotel manager named Paul Rusesabagina who tries to save countrymen during the mass murders of Tutsis. This cartoon is both ironic and chillingly realistic. It is ironic because they are appalled by the fact that people knew about the genocide and did nothing, but they are doing just that. They have the knowledge of what is going on around the world, yet they couldn’t care less. I find it realistic because this is exactly what people around the world did when this was happening, and how many people are acting now with Sudan. People have the knowledge of what is going on, but don’t have the motivation or care to do anything about it. I feel like, especially in today’s world, people only do nice things for people if they get something out of it. No one feels like they will gain anything from helping with the genocide so they simply ignore that it is happening.

One quote from the film “Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire” that applies to this cartoon is, “We’re going to stay to bear witness to what the rest of the world doesn’t want to see” (General Romeo Dallaire). He is pointing out that the rest of the world prefers to pretend that nothing is happening because they don’t want to see it; that others would rather ignore all of the horrible things that are occurring because it makes them feel better. He is also stating that he is going to watch it, that he is aware of what is happening and he is going to get involved, not because he wants to, and not because he has to, but because that is what he should do. The rest of the world doesn’t want to deal with it, so he will.

An example of this occurring today is in Darfur, Sudan. In 2003 the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equity Movement (JEM) released fire on the Sudanese government over their failure to protect its people against nomadic attacks (United Human Rights Council). In return, the government released Janjaweed into the country, ending with the destruction of over 400 villages (United Human Rights Council). According to the United Human Rights Council, “The genocide in Darfur has claimed 400,000 lives and displaced over 2,500,000 people. More than one hundred people continue to die each day; five thousand die every month.” Before completing this assignment I was unaware of how severe the issue in Sudan was. My friend is currently studying in Morocco and has come across people who have personally suffered from this horrific catastrophe. We had a long talk about it on Wednesday and it was crazy to hear about everything that is going on every day that we over look. This assignment really opened my eyes and I hope everyone else has felt the same

Travel Log 8: “Wise for the World” Part 2 by Ariel Olivieri. Dunedin, New Zealand.

I believe that this attitude has developed towards study abroad students because more and more students are studying abroad because it is an easy excuse to travel and take a break from learning. Students come abroad, not with the intention of learning, but with the intention of partying in a foreign country for a couple months. Students will save all of their electives for going abroad and take painting classes, or something else relatively easier, that way they can take long weekend trips and wont have to worry about school at all. I have 14 friends in Italy, Ireland, England, Morocco, Thailand, Australia, and Hawaii who are all studying abroad this semester and only 3 of them are actually taking classes concerning their major. And only 7 of them actually have to earn a good grade; the others just have to pass. Most of my friends are only learning the language because they have too and they go to other countries, as well as their host country, with the intention of being a tourist. I feel like this is a good representation of the majority of abroad students and it is solely because, in my opinion, students want a vacation and study abroad is an amazing excuse.

I came abroad with the opposite intention. I didn’t want a vacation, I wanted a new life. I wanted to explore an area of the world that no one I knew had been to. I wanted to learn about a new culture and adopt their ways of life. I wanted to assimilate myself with the Kiwis and abandon my American tendencies. So far I believe I have been successful. I find several of my friends comparing New Zealand to the States and it has begun 11056461_10206642556806566_3942792143148690076_nto make me angry because they do it in a critical way. For example, they complain that the ice cream in the US is substantially better then the ice cream here, and before they said it, I barely noticed a difference, and I still don’t. Also, they criticize how the burgers taste different. I think that it is silly to think that the burgers would taste the same in the first place. The picture I included was taken outside of Fergburger in Queenstown right before the criticism began.

I relate to Slimbach’s quote, “The answer lies within each of us who venture abroad to make a break with the familiar and discover a wisdom that is distinctively, finally, for the world” (Slimbach, 49). I came abroad to experience something new, not to experience something familiar. If everyone adopts this outlook before choosing to go abroad, I believe that this stereotype will slowly disappear.