Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies

Committee Chair

Melissa Sherfinski

Committee Co-Chair

Sharon Hayes

Committee Member

Audra Slocum

Committee Member

Julie Tritz


In this dissertation, I asked the major research question of: How do non-formal international experiences influence the life stories of participants from Appalachia as they perceive it? I wanted to understand how non-formal educational experiences in an international setting affect the lives of the participants. I especially wanted to understand the ways in which the life stories of the participants from Appalachia were affected by their international experiences.;People tell stories of their lives and their various experiences can impact these narratives and how they share them. From birth and throughout our lives, listening to and telling stories surround us. Society exists through a process of transmission whereas the older communicate habits of doing, thinking, and feeling to the younger and thus, social life survives (Dewey, 1944). Mimicking or imitating is a way in which younger individuals observe accepted social actions and behaviors of others. However, learning to distinguish the appropriate ways to act in different situations is a very important accomplishment in all communities, no matter the age of the individual (Rogoff, 2003). Dewey (1963) and Freire (1972), in their own ways, advocate for the development of active, self-aware learners who have the capacity and freedom to frame their own purposes (Tennant & Pogson, 1995).;The method that I chose for my investigation is narrative inquiry. According to Clandinin and Connelly (2000), narrative inquiry allows the researcher to view the experience in question on several levels. Not only is the investigator able to delve into the context of the experience, but is striving to look for growth within the life story as well. Living a life and telling a story are iterative processes. The data analysis revealed a shared group story involving fear outside the comfort level of the participants; judgment regarding cultural comparisons; and intergenerational connections between members of the group.;This process has also led me to see how the Extension Service must change our mindset when it comes to our premise. Our communities have a need for critical pedagogy and our people have a need for connections with one another. Our Extension Service needs to defy the current push for following business models and once again work toward instantiating relationship-building as an essential service.