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A Mom’s Advice on Study Abroad: Reflect, Barely Connect, Record

(all photos by Stephanie Ross and owned by High Low Glitter)

From the Dinnertable to Cyberspace to Your Own Space

When my daughters were little, I created a game called High Low Glitter, which we played during dinner. Each person at the table shared his or her:

  • High – the best part of the day
  • Low – the worst part of the day, and
  • Glitter – a fun, unexpected small moment from the day.

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High Low Glitter (HLG) proved to be a better way than: “How was your day?” (“Fine.”)  HLG got my family talking and kept us talking. It also got us listening, sympathizing, celebrating, laughing and perhaps most importantly, reflecting.

Before you can share a High Low Glitter you have to pause and reflect on your day. This seemingly simple act of pausing to reflect yields surprising results:

  • You recall little moments that at first seem insignificant, but upon further consideration are what made your day unique, special and meaningful.
  • You share important parts of your day that may or may not have seemed newsworthy outside this context.
  • And in that sharing, the meaningful moments of the day – big or small, good or bad – get noticed, acknowledged and remembered.

When my daughters left for college, I missed hearing their daily High Low Glitter, so I created a place for us to have “cyber-family dinner” whenever and wherever we were. I built a web version of High Low Glitter that allows sharing of ones daily highs, lows and glitters with a very small (7 connections) private network of people.

bring-home-closerWe all started using highlowglitter.com. It was great fun to once again get a glimpse into each other’s days. Then something interesting happened. The importance of posting to share my day, become less important than posting to record the day. The High Low Glitter practice became more than just an enjoyable family activity; it became a daily reflective practice – a journal of the important moments each day.

And I wasn’t the only person this happened to. It happened to my husband. It happened for other High Low Glitter users, who emailed to thank us for creating a place to share the high and low. And then it happened for my daughter while studying abroad in Greece:

The High Low Glitter of Having Your Student Study Abroad

Another way I use HLG is to frame experiences (a trip, a special event) and larger periods of time (a season, a year.) Using the technique this way is not only fun, but also fair. You recall the good and bad, the ups and downs, as well as remember the little moments that make life more textured, interesting and joyful.

So what is the High Low Glitter of having my students, Emily and Heather, study abroad?

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High: Knowing that my students will grow exponentially – intellectually and personally – from their study abroad experiences. And being proud of them for having the confidence and daring it takes to study, volunteer or work in an unfamiliar country and culture, often one that includes a significant language barrier.

Low: Ironically, the Internet.

When I studied in Greece almost 30 years ago, we wrote home. We received the occasional call on a shared phone in the dorm hallway. If we were out, we missed the call. Facebook? Skype? Netflix? Nope. We had 3-hour long dinners, explored the streets of Athens, read magazines to get week-old news from home, and talked into the night.

We were in Greece.  Nowhere else.

The Internet is amazing.  It takes us everywhere from anywhere. And of course I want my students to use it. I want them to be able to share their experiences from anywhere. But I also want my students to use the Internet wisely. I want the Internet to enhance their experience not detract from it.

Glitter:  Their stories! Especially the ones that capture the authentic cultural experiences and adventures my daughters are having.

And how do I like to hear about these stories? Since no one writes letters home, I like my students to share their day as often as possible at highlowglitter.com. I know I am bias and that I just said the Internet was my low, so why this format?

Because with a High Low Glitter post my students:

  • reflect on their day in meaningful way. They are less likely to take their abroad experience for granted, and more likely to appreciate it even on rough day.
  • connect in a substantive way with the people back home who matter most, yet they are not over-communicating. I get an authentic sense of my student’s day-to-day lives without intruding on or distracting from their adventures.
  • record the small, often unnoticed and under-acknowledged, but likely remarkable moments of their time abroad. I treasure these stories now and know my student will treasure them always.

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Stephanie Ross

Stephanie Ross is the creator of High Low Glitter and co-founder of highlowglitter.com, a micro-social networking site devoted to providing a place for families and close friends to share the meaningful moments of the day in a purposely small, private cyberspace. After several years as a full-time mom, Stephanie began her career in personal and professional development coaching. She wears many hats but none more important than mom to twin daughters Emily and Heather.

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