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7.3: Technically Speaking - Reflective writing

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    For Eva Hoffman, the diary she kept chronicling her new life in the US was a crucial factor in making sense of her experiences and in recovering her own voice. It's significant that she did this in written form; she expresses her new English self in this format. Writing provides her the opportunity to reflect on her experience, as she needs to put down in words what it is that she is experiencing. This can be a valuable tool for anyone struggling with identity issues or trying to make sense of life experiences. It can be of particular importance for those studying or working abroad, as there is often a need to explore the meaning of experiences, analyze how they fit in to previous experiences, and what they might mean for continuing to develop our cultural and linguistic repertoire.

    In addition to writing for one's own self, it may be helpful to share one's thoughts with others. Today, the Internet supplies a host of options for doing that. Blogging about one's experience provides an easily accessible mechanism. Including pictures and videos can provide others with more concrete representations of one's experiences. Smartphones allow that to be done in any location and without the forethought and equipment that used to be necessary. Services like Twitter or Instagram offer those opportunities as well. Using online communication options can supply a continuous channel of contact between the sojourner and the friends and family back home. This can be instrumental in allowing others to share in one's personal development, thus potentially mitigating the sense on returning that no one can understand or appreciate what one has experienced and learned. In her model of cross-cultural adaptation, Young Yim Kim (2001) advocates continued communication with people from one's own culture, as they can serve as a bridge between the two worlds. She also stresses the importance of media, with one's own culture media serving also as a bridge and as a resource upon return to reduce reentry culture shock. Paying attention to host media can also help in the adjustment process.

    If traveling abroad as a student, one might consider other ways to document one's experience abroad. One way to do that is to create an online portfolio in which one includes written reflections, as well as media and cultural artifacts. There is increasing interest in the academic and professional worlds in documenting not just formal learning from in-school experiences, but also informal learning. Maintaining a portfolio is one way of doing that. One of the available tools for that purpose is the Autobiography of Intercultural Encounters, developed by the Council of Europe, which enables input from a variety of possible sources; it is in the process of adding a companion tool for incorporation of visual media. A portfolio has the benefit of showing development over time.

    This page titled 7.3: Technically Speaking - Reflective writing is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Robert Godwin-Jones.

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