A Stirling Diary:
An Intercultural Story of Communication, Connection, and Coming-of-Age

by Shelley D. Lane

iUniverse.com, 2010. ISBN 978-1-450-24051-2.
Reviewed by Martha Meacham
Posted on 11/04/2010

Nonfiction: Memoir

It is not easy to turn unedited diary entries into a story. Since before Samuel Pepys scribed his well-known diary in 1667, people have recorded day-by-day accounts for some unknown audience. Now in 2010, Shelley Lane introduces us to her reflections on daily life as a foreign exchange student during her junior year abroad. This slice of her life is pieced together to make up a whole from the parts of her past. Her short ten-month stay in Scotland during the 1970's rocked her world view and shaped her life story as only a cross-cultural experience can. This young Jewish woman enters the world of a foreign exchange student from Southern California and emerges a seasoned traveler on the journey of life.

Anyone who has experienced international living as a student will enjoy sharing her eye-opening experiences with new sights, sounds, smells and tastes. I really liked Lane's account of learning how the American government is seen through the eyes of students from around the world, such as Greece and Turkey. Her travel log is fascinating, as she details visits to off-the-beaten track places in addition to well-known tourist attractions. Another favorite entry was of Ravenna, Italy and Lane's tale of the Byzantine mosaics. There are charming moments of insight such as when she describes a childhood dream of riding on a train and skimming over water that becomes "her dream foretold" on a train in Italy (p.197).

Oh, how I could identify with her frustration of being singled out in public as she traveled, with the leering looks and annoying catcalls of strange men! I felt her invasion of privacy, as I often have felt it myself, when a rude man said to her, "You silly, stupid girl." When a similar incident happened to me, it served as a lesson for me to be more tolerant of culturally-different people in public the rest of my life.

As much as I enjoyed some parts of the diary, I resisted the temptation to skim read after 233 pages out of the 381-page book. I would have preferred to have read an edited version that held the same sentiment, just in fewer pages! For instance, the tendency towards the short diary entries, "It was fun" or "I really miss Kyle" reminded me of my teenage diary, but challenged me to stay interested and attentive. The repetitive nature of comments about Kyle could have been omitted after the reader has been made aware of the dilemma created by this long-distance relationship.

Like a long train ride through snow-capped European mountains with twists and turns, A Stirling Diary does eventually reach the intended destination. After all, the journey *is* the destination. All in all, I enjoyed the ride!

Dr. Shelley D. Lane is the Associate Dean of Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. She has published academic titles as well as this one. She attributes her academic interests in communication to be a result of her early experiences.

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