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Meditation for CIEE Berlin, November 6, 2015
Cynthia Mitchell, PhD, NYU-Paris
This meditation can be used to when workin...
2
you’re going in the wrong direction. You get off at the next stop and stand on the platform
feeling utterly confused. Yo...
3
This middle group, you are a Japanese-American student and a stranger on the street has
just yelled at you and told you ...
4
--Point out positive aspect, underline and recognize their accomplishments. Note the
successes the student has already h...
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Reinventing Wellness: Meditation for CIEE Berlin

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This session will focus on the development of wellness practices that strengthen staff, faculty, and student learning. Janice Abarbanel will expand on her idea of an "emotional passport," a dynamic skill set that can be learned and practiced as one prepares for shifting and settling into new cultures. Cynthia Mitchell will address issues of visibility and invisibility as students from different racial and cultural backgrounds negotiate the ways they're perceived in new environments. Participants will learn strategies to support students' emotional engagement, to enhance curiosity, and to help students recognize their accomplishments as they learn abroad.

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Reinventing Wellness: Meditation for CIEE Berlin

  1. 1. 1 Meditation for CIEE Berlin, November 6, 2015 Cynthia Mitchell, PhD, NYU-Paris This meditation can be used to when working with Study Abroad Staff and with Resident Assistants. It provides a way for participants to feel what it is like to be a new student and serves to introduce discussion about expectations that are a normal part of the transition to a new culture. I want you all to think and feel today from a different point of view, a different perspective, that of a twenty year old student studying away. I want you to relax, and, rather than listening as someone who is trying to help our young students, I want you to listen as a 20 year old, who is leaving his or her own country for the first extended period of time. I want you to be in the shoes of that twenty year old during your first month at a study away site. Perhaps you’re wearing sneakers. Maybe you’re wearing 4 inch heels, or flip-flops, or boots. It might help to close your eyes. Ready? You have left the comfort zone of your city or village, of your family and friends, of the familiar places you are used to seeing, and you don’t know anyone in the place where you’ve landed. You’ve been meeting so many new people that it’s hard to remember their names. You’ve never traveled to a foreign country, and you’re excited by this new adventure. In fact, everything is new. You’re thrilled and also a little overwhelmed. You’re scared and nervous, but you know this is to be expected at the start. One morning, you’re running a bit late so you don’t meet up with the other students you usually take the metro with. You take the metro alone, and it’s very crowded. After a few stops, you realize the names don’t look familiar, you try to see where you are on the diagram above the door, finally you realize
  2. 2. 2 you’re going in the wrong direction. You get off at the next stop and stand on the platform feeling utterly confused. You gradually find your way and you make it to your first class only a few minutes late. In the afternoon, you relax with your new friends at a café. You listen to the other students, and all of them appear more confident and more at ease with one another than you feel. When you order, the waiter doesn’t understand your accent and you have to repeat yourself several times. You feel terrible visible, as if all eyes are on you. You feel awkward and tongue-tied, pressured to get it right. Finally he understands, but you end up feeling stupid, and alone, and as if you are about to cry. You tell yourself this happens to everyone, but it doesn’t help. You feel embarrassed in front of your new friends. You don’t know what’s happening to you. Your new friends ask if you’re alright, then they go on talking. Now, oddly, you feel invisible, as if no one knows what you are feeling. You start thinking of all the mistakes you’ve made since landing in this new place. Sometimes you are happy, involved, learning new things, but other times you feel sad and homesick and when you look around everyone else looks casual, cool and at ease. You feel ashamed, you should be happy to be studying away, you dreamed of coming 33here, your parents are spending so much money for college, how can you tell them how lonely you feel? PAUSE and ask for feelings and reactions so far. I want all of you to remain 20 years old. A few weeks have gone by and you are gradually settling in to your study away site. Now, This side of the room, you’ve just face-timed with your parents and they told you they are separating. You don’t know anyone well at your new site. You’re in a state of shock and there’s no one you can tell.
  3. 3. 3 This middle group, you are a Japanese-American student and a stranger on the street has just yelled at you and told you to go back to China. You on this side of the room are in the shoes of a student who is away without her boyfriend of several years. You and he agreed to take a break while you were studying abroad, but now the feeling of loss is upending you. Take a few moments to absorb this new information, How do you feel? What will you do next? What will help you? After the meditation: I want to emphasize the enormous benefit of knowing in advance what reactions one might anticipate. Here are some other things I tell student they might expect to feel or experience: Expect to feel disoriented: You will feel gradually more competent and more relaxed. Expect to have moments of discovery. Expect uncertainty. Expect the challenge of a world in another language. Expect erratic or unavailable internet connections. Yikes! Expect at some point to feel homesick. Expect to be seen differently, to have different aspects of your identity stand out in a new place. Encourage Student curiosity Hear the student out. --Recognize their distress, fear or homesickness as real. --Recognition helps them feel recognized and more calm. --Acknowledge those thoughts and feelings.
  4. 4. 4 --Point out positive aspect, underline and recognize their accomplishments. Note the successes the student has already had. For instance, they’ve already met one challenge in deciding to study in a foreign place. They have successfully completed all the things needed in order to come. They have decided to speak to you; that is a step in the right direction. --Point out to the student that he or she is on the right track, that it takes people different amounts of time to settle in a new place, that it is a process of learning about yourself and what you need to feel comfortable in a new environment. Ask guiding questions so that the student can find the answers. --Give them control. --Ask questions that offer alternatives and that open space for students to think about their situations differently. --You might ask, What small thing can you do in the next few days that will make you feel a little bit better? --Help students to notice how their thoughts influence their feelings and actions.

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