Since August 2017, Eli LaBan, KLN '17, has been in Nicaragua exploring and capturing the nation's rich culture on video. He had always considered himself to be artistic, even as a young child, but knew that art school was an intense commitment and applied to Temple as a psychology major.
"I knew I needed to do something creative in my life... so it was a hunch to switch to [media studies and production]," said LaBan. "Luckily, the hunch worked out well."
He discovered the more technical side of the arts and opened his eyes to a world of possibilities. Initially, he dreamed of working for National Geographic, partially due to his urge to travel. While at Klein College, LaBan studied abroad twice; once in South Africa for four weeks during the summer of 2015 and a second time in Nicaragua with the School of International Training during the fall 2016 semester. In 2017, Laban took home a college Emmy for his video series from Nicaragua called " Learn to Count in an Endangered Language."
His passion to travel and explore other cultures, combined with his desire to learn the Spanish language inspired him to travel to the unusual study abroad destination of Nicaragua.
"I wanted to go somewhere that was less travelled, that was a little off the beaten path," said LaBan. "If you go off the beaten path, with a media background, and you take your skills where people don't usually go with them, it's easier to make connections."
While studying abroad, He began making short videos to share on his YouTube channel and Facebook pages for friends and family. They gained a lot of attention, including that of Professor Silvano Ervin Hodgson at the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast.
"He basically said, you have to come back, we need more of these materials,we have nothing like this," LaBan said. "We need to record older people, we need to record songs because these things are all disappearing."
With the professor's encouragement and requests, LaBan applied for a fellowship stipend to return to Nicaragua to make additional recordings to preserve the culture.
LaBan was particularly fascinated with the Rama Cay culture in Nicaragua, as their rich history and culture was not being reported upon and, because of that, were being forgotten.
"I had three main goals for these projects that these videos are intended to accomplish," said LaBan. "The first one, obviously is to facilitate … cultural interaction … second is that by collaborating so closely with people from the community, these videos will be used as educational tools in schools...and third is just recording this stuff and having it recorded."
In the future, LaBan hopes to travel back to Nicaragua, as well as other places around the world to help capture culture and history on film. LaBan is currently in the process of applying for a Fulbright scholarship and hopes to do more freelancing videos.