The Value of “Paper-based” Communication

This post does not neatly fit into any of my usual categories, but, I wanted to share it just the same.  The idea comes from an op-ed (Sunday, Aug. 18) titled, “Dear Emma,” in the NY Times.  Written by an airline pilot who is also a writer (I’d like to hear his announcements while in flight), he outlines his lengthy “old” fashioned pen-pal friendship with a woman from Australia which began when they both were just 13, in 1987.  He describes it as “…pure, conjured serendipity – a random, unweighted connection with someone you never knew existed and would surely never meet.”  As lovely a description of a relationship as I’ve ever read.

As this story goes, and it’s not fictional, they met recently and closed the circle on their friendship…But I’m writing about it because the author reminds us that writing “builds anticipation” in communication and the sharing of information about ourselves and our lives.  It reminds me of my first sojourns to India as a grad student and later, as leader of intercultural programs in that nation.  Trying to convey facts and emotions on the tiny blue aerogram letters home to friends and family was impossibly difficult and took much time.  Yes, it took time.  Time to think about how I could convey a clear idea or picture of an event or something I had learned.  And I then threw it into the wind and hoped it landed in the mailbox of the recipient.  Despite learning later that not all of my letters reached their destinations, I valued the exercise of having to be so determined to share my experience regardless of whether or not the information arrived at the intended address.  It was a risk worth taking.

Wouldn’t there be great educational value if students studying abroad had to write in prose to describe their cross-cultural experiences. To discuss their lessons learned and problems solved.  Not just blogging about experiences in a random manner but as part of a purposeful exercise to focus their communication to convey an accurate description of events and experiences.

If you direct a program that is doing this, let me know !

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