Introductions and Motivations: Who are we and why are we writing this blog?
by Janice Abarbanel PhD (Boston) and Linn Friedrichs (NYU Berlin)
Janice Abarbanel PhD, Topic Network Chair
Hello. Welcome to the Topic Network blog for Emerging Adulthood and Study Abroad. My name is Janice Abarbanel. I am a US clinical psychologist with a great interest in the interface between Emerging Adulthood, studying abroad, and emotional health. For the last 3 ½ years, I served as NYU’s first onsite psychologist at the Berlin, Germany academic center where 80 to 100 students study each term. There, I helped set up the Wellness office, counseling support for students, and consultation support for faculty and staff.
In October, 2014, I returned to the US (Boston) to focus on training study abroad staff about Emerging Adulthood and to develop a wider audience for those interested in expanding the conversation about how studying abroad can be a positive path during one’s 20s for exploration, supportive mentoring, and guided steps into a complex world.
Prior to my position in Berlin, I developed the idea of “the Emotional Passport”, a skill set using positive language to help students shift into a place where “everything is new,” for example, a culture different from the place they call “home.” This blog will expand further on the value of the Emotional Passport for Emerging Adulthood and those who guide and mentor this generation.
Emerging adults, defined as optimistic, eager to explore, self-focused, and engaged in identity exploration, are in a life stage where studying abroad can be a wonderful fit. The age can be filled with moments or periods of instability too – something studying abroad can both invite and engage, providing a positive structure for learning and growing.
Linn Friedrichs, Emerging Scholar Co-Chair for the Study Abroad Topic Network:
Hello Readers. I am a higher education professional based in Berlin, Germany, driven by the idea of creating a sustainable global society through education. I love good storytelling, daring architecture, and people with a captivating laugh. Having lived in New York and Berlin, I appreciate both cities for their unforgiving vibrancy, their people, music, and art scenes. Life and study abroad, the challenge of cultural transitions, the different languages associated with different homes – all have sparked a broader sense of belonging. Home is where my heart is. It exists in plural. My favorite word in German is "Sehnsucht", the addiction to longing; my favorite English word has always been "yonder". In a way, both words also point to my taste for slow and personal travel and an eagerness to challenge, complicate, and expand my knowledge, curiosity, and self-awareness. I am a feminist, a passionate dancer, and part-time hermit.
When asked what I do for a living, I usually say that I am a Higher Education professional. If people want to know more, I say that I am the Assistant Director for Student Life at NYU Berlin. I oversee the Student and Residential Life divisions and interface with local and global university staff to create a more sustainable, resiliency-based learning culture for international students.
Usually, the conversation stops here. First of all, the concept of Student Life is not common in Germany. Most people naturally assume that I am an overqualified nanny/personal assistant for privileged American undergraduate students, effectively mirroring the hovering helicopter parent and successfully reinforcing an elite study abroad bubble in a city that is undoubtedly one of the hippest and most hyped urban environments in the world. This negative mindset usually prompts me to bring up the concept of Emerging Adulthood. I find that those who are interested in brain development, learning theories, or generational trends enjoy this conversation.
For me, supporting Emerging Adults in global higher education challenges me to go beyond administrative duties. I want to understand and co-design global education based on Emerging Adult research and experiences. On weekends, I put on my researcher hat and think about ways in which the curriculum can become a powerful tool for change and inspire our students to become responsible and curious cosmopolitans. What does it mean to learn to think and act globally? How do we better understand the interconnectedness of systems and cultures and learn to navigate difference with curiosity, thereby creating more sustainable communities?
Stories ahead - what to expect through this blog:
We invite you, our colleagues who study Emerging Adulthood in its diversity and various interfaces, to dive into this conversation where study abroad and Emerging Adulthood converge.
We invite you to check in with us every month as we share our stories about student and staff experiences throughout a study abroad term or year. We will start with the pre-departure period: How do our Emerging Adults who choose to study somewhere outside of their usual comfort zone prepare for their upcoming sojourns? What are hopes, worries, and goals they bring with them and unpack abroad? How do the adults around them (staff in the US and abroad, parents, and the media) offer support and guidance?
In later months, we will follow our students through the on-site orientation, particular workshops, their own initiatives and creative engagement with the local community, moments of accelerated learning, assorted challenges, and periods of instructive mindfulness and reflection during the semester and after they have departed. Why is it important to help students integrate their global studies and life experiences abroad into their emerging identity? How can staff and faculty connect with students transitioning in and out of different cultural contexts? What can students’ experiences teach us? In short, we will shed light on our casual proclamation that studying abroad reflects Emerging Adulthood in a nutshell.
We encourage you to engage with our optimism about this stage of life, the opportunities for this generation, and the hopefulness these young cosmopolitans bring with them as they settle into cultures different from what they have previously called “home.”
We invite you to join the SSEA Study Abroad Topic Network because:
1. We expect that these stories about Emerging Adults “heading out” will be interesting, engaging, and fun.
2. This blog will be a forum to connect with others who share your interests, a place for stories and considerations. We will share our experiences with students in Berlin and elsewhere and welcome your personal stories and research about students abroad.
3. This blog welcomes you to explore ways that studying abroad contributes to and challenges emotional health and identity formation during Emerging Adulthood. How do students set out and experience relationships, work, and broaden their worldviews during a sojourn abroad, typically for one term or one year?
4. You can share here your research on studying abroad during Emerging Adulthood across disciplines, cultures, and generations: What does it mean to have a positive or successful term or year abroad? What variables seem to enhance identity development? What characterizes intercultural environments that are conducive to learning?
Thank you for your engagement with us.