Travel Log 4: “Studying Abroad… It’s More than Just a Walk in the Park” by Nisa Villareal. Florence, Italy.

In the Getting Oriented chapter of Becoming World Wise, Richard Slimach writes, “Physically “being there” is just the first step. Our actual entrance into the community requires that we venture out to observe every day life, interact with strangers, and slowly absorb an alternative reality,” (Slimbach 184). Today marks 3 weeks that I have been living in Florence, Italy; however, I am not truly living here just yet. In order to become a part of my new environment I have been venturing out into the city to better accustom myself with Italian life. Like Slimbach suggests, walking through Florence has been a tremendous ‘teacher’ to me. I am already familiar with my surroundings and can navigate the majority of the city without using a map. The Duomo, Florence’s main cathedral, is one of Italy’s major churches and a focus point in the city. I use this area to help me navigate to other areas off the beaten and path. Another helpful landmark to assist in navigation around the city is the river Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. The river crosses Florence and the Ponte Vecchio, literally translated to mean ‘old bridge’, crosses the Arno and is a popular tourist destination. My apartment is settled on a small side street closer to the Arno so most days I walk along the river on my way to class. On any given day it is a beautiful view, but in the late afternoon the area is crowded with tourists. I’ve learned through my travels not to eat or buy anything in these main areas. The prices are sky rocketed for tourists. I got a small cone of gelato near the Duomo for 5 euro compared to a large cone of gelato near my apartment for 1,80 euro.

Asides from walking, I also learned the ins and outs of Florence through running. Upon my arrival to the city I was unsure if this was an accepted practice so I kept my running shoes packed away until this recent week. From walking to class everyday I noticed in the mornings the path along the Arno was packed with Italian runners dressed from head to toe in running gear. One Sunday morning I was feeling ambitious so I laced up my sneakers and joined the pack. It was truly a worthy experience as I got to see Florence from an entirely new perspective. Locals didn’t stare or gawk at me running, but the tourists did as I ran around them. From watching the locals the past couple of weeks, I knew that it was okay to run around the large tourist groups because they did that to me. The locals don’t stop life for anyone – especially not tourists or students. Bikers, motorists, and drivers will run you over in the street. It’s like laws are optional here. I was standing just beyond the curb outside of a restaurant one evening talking with friends when I turned and a motorist had the front tire of his Vespa at my shin. I looked at him confused as to why he was so close to me but then I looked around and noticed I was positioned in a traffic lane. The irregular traffic laws and lack of curbs have nearly gotten me hit a dozen times already.

Although it’s taken me a while to become familiar with walking the streets of Florence, I have learned some basic life skills in Italy. Using the Euro has been a huge adjustment for me, but I picked it up quickly. Restaurants, shops, bars and the like don’t like breaking large bills. When I go to the ATM, I try to get denominations of 20 euros rather than 50 in order to avoid this. The smallest euro denomination is 5 and anything less than that is given in coins. I get the 2 and 1 euro coins easily mixed up for quarters since they’re similar in size, but now that I know the value I have gotten a small coin purse and carry it around with me. For the most part, things here are cheap. On my way to class I can get a croissant for 1 euro and a ‘caffé con latte’ for 2. Locals normally sit down and enjoy their morning cappuccinos and pastry, however a lot of bars (another name for cafes here) can give you things for ‘take away’. There are even some osterias (taverns/casual restaurants) that will give you cheaper prices for take away items like pizzas or pasta. I also learned that if I am hungry or need to get shopping done it needs to be before 1pm (13:00) or after 3pm (15:00). Many places close for lunch during this time period. Military time is also used frequently so I’ve been forced to learn how to read it.

One big lesson I’ve learned in Florence is also proper etiquette. When entering shops oftentimes I am greeted by a ‘buongiorno’ in the morning or ‘buonasera’ in the afternoon/evening. My Italian teacher taught us to reply with the same rather than ‘ciao’ as it is an informal greeting typically between friends. Tipping is not required or expected in Italy. After dinner one night, our waiter explained to me and some friends that “Italians don’t tip. Americans tip because they’re dumb”. It was funny, but also so true. Not tipping or being taxed is something I can easily get used to. Sometimes certain restaurants have a sitting fee, usually 1 to 2 euro, which can be the equivalent to a tip – and some restaurants require you to buy something in order to sit as well. Splitting checks is not common either so it is always best to carry cash. No matter what the purchase is as well you will always get a receipt in Italy. For the most part, business owners and workers all speak some level of English, but they are much more appreciative if you attempt their language first.

The little customs and quirks of the city I’ve discovered through my walks make me much more appreciative of my new lifestyle. In my travelogue, Italy, A Love Story, twenty-eight women describe Italy and why they fell in love with it. Each story tells tales of different cities, but not about the expected, always about the little quirks and unanticipated experiences within the city. The encounters each woman writes about are out of the ordinary tourist experience and are more culturally focused and personal. For instance, one of my favorite accounts titled, “A Hunger for Monica’s Mascarpone,” describes a woman’s visit to Venice and how her friend Monica brought her to a local restaurant away from the tourist attractions. Monica showed her the ins and outs of Italian eating and in turn, received impeccable service from their waiter. I had a similar experience to this one. A local in Florence brought us to a pizza place on the outskirts of the city and explained to us how to order, what to order and why we should stay away from mainstream restaurants. I ate the most incredible stuffed pizza at a crazy cheap price. The owner spoke little English, but made every attempt to talk to us and give us great service. We taught him some English and he taught us some Italian. Slimbach writes, “the thresholds we cross through informal movements and encounters prepare us for the core of our orientation experience: a systematic exploration of specific, settled place,” (Slimbach 192). These types of experiences are truly the thresholds in my liminal process. I feel more mentally aware through the small incidents in Italy like this one, rather than the larger ones, like climbing the Duomo. Both are extremely significant to my time abroad, however; I can take more away from the personal incidences.


Taken by Nisa Villareal. Arno River Walk.

Pictured you can see my view during my morning walk to class. I walk along the Arno and everything seems to peaceful when the sun is just rising, yet still full of action with the bikers, runners and motorists. There is never a moment walking by the river that I do not see someone or something. The streets are never empty and it makes me feel comforted. I feel safe even through I am surrounded by strangers. I couldn’t picture the streets without people on it. By walking this route everyday, I think that I am playing a part into the everyday life of Florence.


Travel Log 4: “Studying Abroad… It’s More than Just a Walk in the Park” by Connor LaChapelle. Heidelberg, Germany.

The walk I ventured on was originally planned to be a two mile walk along the Neckar River to where it begins to stream into the Rhine. However, because it was one of the sunniest and warmest days since I had arrived, the walk escalated into a six mile hike. The city strewn out below me offered me a perspective on my experience that I had yet to encounter. People talked in German, but I understood much of what they were saying. Not linguistically per se, but rather their body language. Couples sat on benches smiling at each other, at the beautiful day. Its comical how if you mute the language, cultures are fundamentally similar in what they find joy in. I actually stumbled upon a monastery that is renowned for brewing their own beer. As you could probably imagine, I was thankful for the surprise destination. While we sat waiting for the server, an older man in a charcoal English cap with neatly trimmed white facial hair sat on the other side of me. The fact that he sat so close to a stranger reminded me of Slimbach’s orientation exercises, particularly the social etiquette portion. The way he interacted with the waiting staff suggested that he was familiar with location. I took the opportunity to ask the man about the local history of the place.

“Spreken ze English” I asked the man, curious if language would be a barrier.

“You American?” he asked without even a hint of an accent.

We ended up talking for nearly a half hour while he waited for his wife to stop taking pictures of the scenery. He asked me how I found the place, and I told him I had been hiking away from Heidelberg and it literally just came up in my path. The man, whose name was Hans, laughed momentarily at the irony because that was how he discovered the beer brewing monastery nearly 50 years ago. I asked Hans why the monastery seconded as a brewery, his answer was simple yet enlightening.

“Monks like beer too, ya know?”

I left it at that. We then got to discussing Heidelberg in general and how it has changed since ‘his’ time. He talked at length about how the city actually used to be one of the most American city in Germany because a United States military took up a massive lot of the land since World War II. Hans told me what to look for during my stay as well as what to avoid. For example, he said to make sure to try kebabs while here because few other places in Europe make them better. Last night I decided to put the man word to the test, and my friends and I found the closest kebab restaurant. We weren’t disappointed. The walk helped me to achieve the goal that Slimbach mentions: “Our goal at this point in the orientation phase is to sensitize ourselves to the social spaces where local residents do life.” (Slimbach, 185)

Not only was the walk a great teacher, but my travelogue, Those Crazy Germans! by Steve Somers, was similar to a walk but to be honest the information only skimmed the surface. I was hoping more for a piece that delved more deeply into German customs. However, I did find the comparisons between German and American cultures to be interesting, particularly when he discussed the development of German language. I appreciate the rationale that upholds German culture; I wish that he talked more about the history of Germany so I could more clearly understand how the nation become so logically oriented.

HeidelbergThe picture here is one that I took on the hike. I believe it is representative of my current state of mind. It was taken in a place where I can easily be cognitive of my surroundings, which allows me to get a more broad perspective of what I am capable of doing while I am her. In this situation, my cognition churns my emotions knowing all of the activities here that I am capable of doing.


Travel Log 3: “Betwixt and Between…so this is Liminality” by Tory Parker. Rome, Italy.

Wow…I’m in Italy. I am actually here and this is really happening. This past week and a half have been so busy with orientation and exploring and first days of classes that sometimes I forget where I actually am and will be for the next four months. One look out my apartment window or accidentally running into the Coliseum on my search for the bookstore pulls me back to reality and makes me realize…I AM IN ITALY. Okay, I’m done ranting and gushing.

My separation process was definitely not what I anticipated. Physically, it was a quick hug, goodbye, and “text you when I land” to my parents at the security check at JFK. I am so thankful for that because I do not think I would have handled a long, drawn out goodbye very well. I know my mom would have gotten emotional, which in turn would have made me emotional and the whole experience would have ben a puddle of tears. Mentally, it has been a wild ride thus far. My first few days were filled with excitement and curiosity, wanting to see and do everything all at once (and eat all the pizza in sight). After the first rush of excitement boiled down, I caught myself feeling a tad homesick: “While it’s true that the initial decision to uproot is ours, soon afterwards, much of our life abroad happens under our feet and without our permission. Cultural quakes happen. Our foundations suddenly shift, and nothing- not family, not friends, not luggage, not customs- seems fixed anymore” (Slimbach, 160). I think this quote explains where my homesickness was coming from. Everything I was experiencing and seeing was so very different than what I have been used to for the last 20 years, the uncertainty of nothing being “fixed” anymore brought on the homesickness. I know this is normal during a study abroad experience, but I definitely was not expecting it so soon. This homesickness disappeared after two days, once I started feeing more comfortable in my apartment and with my surroundings and started to get to know my new roommates better, who luckily are great. We even made friends with a waiter at the pizzeria below our apartment. Waving to him every time I walk into my building makes me feel more at home in my new neighborhood. I feel like my separation process went extremely well and helped me start to transition into my new environment with more ease.

I think my greatest personal strength of being comfortable doing my own thing without having to have a bunch of other people around me is helping me not be over dependent on my new communitas. Although I do not wander around Rome by myself for safety reasons, I am comfortable picking an activity and finding someone who would like to join me, rather than going along with whatever everyone else feels like doing. I have observed first hand other students doing an activity just because their friends or roommates are. They have trouble deciding for themselves because they feel like others will not approve of their decisions. At this point I do not feel like I am struggling with communitas in that way.

My biggest challenge thus far is without a doubt the language barrier. I find myself frustrated, especially at the grocery stores and small markets where all the products and their descriptions are in Italian and the associates do not speak English. Also, they do not sell the same things in grocery stores as we do in the United States. For example, I needed a washcloth and bobby pins and had absolutely no clue where I could find them. I find myself missing Target so much! I am so used to walking in with a list and being in and out of the store in 10 minutes, whereas here I have to take the time to try and decipher the Italian or the pictures on the products. My roommate and I spent 20 minutes in a small corner store trying to figure out which bottle was shampoo and which was body wash. I almost accidentally bought deoderant because I thought it was face lotion! Through this initially incredibly frustrating challenge, I have learned a little bit of patience, and hopefully my food shopping excursions will become easier as time goes on.

            I plan on meeting international friends through my classes and also in my neighborhood. I am so excited to do so, so when I return home, I can stay in contact with someone over seas. Also, I feel like these friendships will help me feel more at home in Italy, and they could also show me places in Rome that I would not have thought of going to.



I chose this picture of a road leading to a mountain with a woman headed away from the camera because I feel as though I am already on my journey, as she is. I am no longer at the very start, but have begun to make headway. I also like that there is a mountain in the picture, as I feel as though there are going to be more challenges on my journey that I will have to overcome. There are also other people in the picture, and I feel this represents communitas and the friends I have made here so far.

Travel Log 3 “Betwixt and Between…so this is Liminality” by Funmi Oluwasusi London, England

WOW! It’s almost unbelievable that I’m finally here. There was just so much build up to this journey so it feels great that that part is over. I was exhausted the day we arrived but I was too eager to see everything during the bus ride to sleep (I may have dozed off a bit). It was a lot to take in at first, I think because I was so tired, but as the ride into central London continued I saw so much more. The one thing that resonated with me in this new surrounding was the different people and layout of the city. Everything from the roads to the houses to the cars is just compact and small. I honestly could not understand how our coach bus was whipping around the streets without hitting someone or something. I also immediately noticed how diverse the area was. You can see it the people and the businesses that lined the streets. Even while walking I would see someone and assume they were British, but as I passed I would hear their native language and be completely wrong. It is definitely a change of pace.

My mindset is very much here and not thinking of home. I’m just so eager to see everything that I forget about what I left at home. My separation was a little rocky at first but I’m trying to get it back on track now. By the time I landed, I sent a quick Facebook message to let my sister know I was okay and then I kind went off the grid for a few days. Maybe that was because I didn’t have a working phone but I still could have figured something out if I really wanted to. This is what usually happens when I leave home for a long time. I have to get my bearings first and slightly comfortable before I can really sit down and talk to my family. I think it helps the separation process because when they hear that I am relaxed and settling in well they feel a bit more comfortable and at ease.

In the seminars we discussed communitas as being people who are going through the liminal phase at the same time. I can definitely say that I have found my communitas already. I already have a very tight knit group of friends who are all going through similar issues such as navigating classes, managing money, and making the most of this journey. We stick together and look out for each other, which is great because I feel like I have a support system that will know what I am going through and are able to help me based on their experiences. However as great as this is I can very much relate to Simbach’s description of how communitas is double edged. It amazing how close we have gotten in a week but I hope this won’t hinder us from venturing out on our own or with other local natives to the area. By being together all the time and trying to plan trips at the same time we may start to have a groupthink mentality, which could take away from the journey. Simbach states, “Continual retreat into a foreigner bubble runs the risk of reinforcing the sense of “being in control” apart from having to adjust ourselves to native expectations.”(Simbach 160). This is where my weakness comes into play. I struggle with adjusting to new settings and I feel as though my communitas will hold me back from working on this. When I’m uncomfortable I go back to what I know because I feel in control. Currently I am comfortable and I feel in control but I’m not fully immersed in this culture and understand its expectations, which is the downfall of my communitas. Hopefully, when classes begin this will change for the better. I’ve yet to figure out my strengths that influences the communitas but hopefully over time I will find them and be able to discuss it.

As silly as this sounds the main challenge for me is food. I love trying new food and shopping for food here is surprisingly different. I like trying new things but the food that I eat frequently is not the same. This could be difficult at times but I;m learnig to adjust and find new things to eat. Since I’ve been here I think I’ve been to 5 or more restaurants. I have to take it easy with that because I’ll run out of money in a heartbeat. As for buying groceries I have to get used to that fact that this culture goes shopping for food almost every other day. I’m so used to shopping in bulk and not having to go for almost two weeks if I’m lucky. The UK does not use as much preservatives in their food like the US does. Fresher food means it goes bad quicker, which means buying more often. I know I cannot change this so I will have to adapt. To get over the strangeness on living in London I have explored around my school to see where I could possibly hangout before or after classes. On the first day of orientation for school, my flat mates and I found this small coffee shop run by this very nice man. It was really cozy and the coffee and food were great. I was walking by the café today and he spotted me through the window we both exchanged greetings. It felt great that he recognized me and I plan on going back and getting to know him better. I feel as though becoming a regular somewhere may help overcome the strangeness of this new environment.

Like I said I love food and this was something that I had for dinner one night.  The shock I felt when I saw this burger is very similar to how I felt whenI realized i’m finally in London, a mixture of fear and determination. When I first arrived and realized how much London has to offer I kept thinDinner, Spring2015king about whether I can do everything, just like I was trying figure out if I could eat this burger! In order to actually eat my food I had to deconstruct it and section it up just like I plan to do during my journey in London in order to gain the most.

“Betwixt and Between…so this is Liminality” Jessica Sweeney. London, England

When I first arrived in London, I was extremely exhausted after a day of travelling, but I could not wait to explore. It took about a full two days for it to finally sink in that I’m actually living in London for three months. Even after being here for eight days, I still cannot contain my excitement of being in this wonderful country for such a long time. I’m sure this honeymoon stage will ware off a little, but I can’t stop thinking about how happy I am that I decided to go abroad. I never pictured myself going abroad for a whole semester, because I knew it would be extremely difficult to be away from home, but I am glad I decided to step out of my comfort zone and explore another country. I just want to make sure I make the most out of my time here. Dealing with separation has not been difficult so far since this is the weekend my parents are visiting. Although I miss the rest of my family, and the food at home, and friends, I barely have time to even think about most of that.

Communitas is definitely something that is helpful, but could also hurt the abroad experience. Right now, it is very nice to have this group of people going through the same thing. However, I hope that I do not become too dependent on these people and forget why I came here, which is to step out of my comfort zone and become independent. I’m hoping that once classes start in a few days, I will meet a lot more people and be able to hang out with more than the 12 other people I’ve become very close with already. I think my greatest strength to help me with that is being aware. I know why I came here, and I plan on making sure I step out of my comfort zone as much as physically possible. On the other hand, I know how easy it is to hang around with the people in my communitas and not branch out. My biggest weakness affecting this would be that I can get comfortable with a group, and not want to branch out. It seems to be that most other people in my communitas think more or less the same way I do. I have a feeling once classes start, we will all make more friends and not have the same, set, comfortable group.

Being in a liminal state is pretty challenging. I am absolutely loving my time here thus far, but I do not feel like I belong yet. I still feel like a tourist, and I’m hoping that changes soon. “When we discover that things in our destination culture are profoundly different from things at home, our natural tendency is not to move toward them but to flee away from them,” (Slimbach 163). This is not what I hope I can steer clear of doing while I am here. I want to embrace this different culture, not just start to miss what is comfortable back at home. Not being used to another country, and different cultures, getting used to things like the different food, their mannerisms, and many other things, it makes the liminal phase very challenging. Since this is the first time I’m experiencing all of this, I feel like I’m still stuck in “American ways.” What I’ve learned about myself is that it takes me a little bit longer to accept the differences here. I’ve never dealt with this much of a change before, so it’s much more difficult to accept. However, being with people that are going through the same thing is helpful because everyone has different perspectives and being able to hear what they think is helping me become adjusted more quickly.

What I’m planning on doing to get this strangeness to wear off is to immerse myself in the culture. After I finish doing all the tourist activities, I want to make sure I do things that locals do, and be willing to try new things, so it will be much easier to ease into living here and acting like a Londoner, not just a visitor. I’m sure this will be hard, but this was one of the main reasons I wanted to go abroad, so I will make sure I am more like a native than a tourist.

This picture best describes my journey so far because I am doing all of the tourist things in London now, rather than later. It portrays my emotions because right now I do still feel like a tourist, even though I know that won’t last for long. Also, it portrays my thoughts because I know if I do this now, it will give me more time to do things the locals do, and step away from being a toBig Ben, Spring2015urist for all of my time here. Since I am seeing all of these sights now, it shows what I am doing to make sure I feel like a local hopefully by midway through this wonderful experience. Hopefully this tactic will work for me, and I can start acting and feeling like a local before I know it, and enjoy this experience from more than a tourists point of view.

Travelogue 1: “Laying a Foundation.” Brian Costello. Cold Spring, NY.

Today is the two week mark before I begin my journey abroad. My departure date has been getting closer and closer and what was originally a feeling of anxiousness has matured into a feeling of excitement.

The main concepts that resonated with me during the workshops were the three stages of traveling abroad and the importance of reflective thinking. I believe that all three stages of the Rites of Passage have their own importance and meaning that will only reveal themselves to me through reflective thinking on experiences I will have. However, the one stage that sticks out with me the most is the liminal stage. The reason that this stage connects with me the most is because it is essentially the stage of adaptation, which is the most exciting and experimental stage. The liminal stage is the stage where you can transform into whoever you want to be which only happens a handful of times throughout your life. It is similar to the stage of metamorphosis for a pupa turning into a butterfly, this transformation takes time and is unique for each individual. Coming from a small community, where my high school class only consisted of 60 students, it is refreshing to be able to go to a new community and become whoever I feel is most fit to live in that community. This is why the liminal stage resonates with me the most out of all the other stages of the Rites of Passage.

The second concept that made a remarkable impression on me is the concept of reflective thinking. The PowerPoint defines reflection as “Honest thinking about your thoughts, feelings, and actions, that influences future behaviors.” I have always felt that reflection is key to developing as a human being and as a member of your community. To take your actions and judge them based on the situation is important for learning and adapting, so reflection and the liminal stage go hand and hand. The only problem with reflection is reflection itself, in the sense that if you reflect too long you begin to doubt your original understanding of an event or action and substitute it for another. This is as bad as it sounds because when an individual is constantly reflecting on events that happened in the past then they will be missing out on the events and memories that are being created in the present. Reflection is important for us to grow as human beings but it should be used in moderation to avoid falling too deep into it.

In Richard Slimbach’s book Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning, he discusses the two concepts I have touched on such as the liminal stage and reflective thinking. A quote from Slimbach’s book that relates to the liminal stage is “What matters most is not that there are virgin lands awaiting original discovery. What’s important is that we should discover things that are new to us and feel the same wonder and elation as if they were new to everyone else” (Slimbach 17). Discovery is an ever important part in the liminal stage because it lays the foundation on who you will become as time progresses. This feeling of discovery can elicit a feeling of happiness as Slimbach describes, but it can also create a feeling of confusion or apprehension. I feel that I will experience all three during my time in New Zealand, but I will learn how to adapt to them and carry on.

The other concept of reflection is also mentioned in Slimbach’s book specifically in this quote  “The very act of moving from one place to another helps create a space where we can bump up against strangeness and reexamine some of the settled assumptions we hold regarding the world—and ourselves” (Slimbach 17). Everyone needs to be thrown into murky waters where you cannot see the bottom to learn how to swim. Most of us don’t want to take this risk merely because they don’t know how it will turn out, and this feeling of apprehension will bring development to a halt. Doing activities we don’t want to do will help our characters develop and let us grow as human beings with a little bit of reflection. Sometimes these activities turn out sour, and other times they turn out great. No matter the outcome something can be learned from it, you just need to reflect. I know that I will be placed in situations good and bad while abroad, but as long as I can dissect them and reflect on them it will not be a hindrance to my character development.

For my travTravelogue Bookelogue I chose the book Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All. This book has to do with the secret underground cult of cannibals that control all of society throughout New Zealand. Just kidding. This book is a story of a woman, named Christina Thompson, who falls in love with a Maori man and eventually marries him. This book encompasses not only the romance of Christina Thompson, but is also a narrative history of the cultural collision between Westerners and the Maoris of New Zealand. I chose this book because it gives an excellent history lesson on how New Zealand developed and changed culturally over the centuries as well as a heartwarming story to give me the feels.


Travel Log 3: “Betwixt and Between…so this is Liminality” by Leah Chernick. Paris, France.

After a four-hour delay due to mechanical issues on the plane and a six and a half hour flight to Paris, I finally arrived to Charles de Gaulle airport. When I got off the plane I immediately noticed new things that would have been totally different in America. The airport was quiet; you could almost hear a pin drop. At first I thought maybe the airport wasn’t too busy that day, but I soon came to realize how quietly the French speak and how loud Americans really are. Adjusting to the Parisian culture in order to not stick out like a tourist is definitely taking some time to adjust to. We have been having several orientations over this past week to help us adapt. Some other things I also noticed about my new host country is that you always say ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir’ when you enter or exit a store or a restaurant. Another thing they explained in the orientations, and that I noticed while riding the metro and walking on the streets, is that everyone keeps a straight face and no one smiles with their teeth much here. The language barrier is also going to be a bit harder for me to tackle than I expected, since I do not know any French.

My separation process was easier than I expected, but adjusting to my new life here is harder than I expected. My parents definitely had a harder time than I did separating from me at the airport. I am still definitely in the mindset of my native (US) culture, as I see myself comparing everything to how things are in America. I am glad I am noticing these differences, but need to have an open mind and adjust to the French ways. I am not yet feeling “at home” in my new host country nor am I physically in the United States.

A communitas is an integral part of the liminal stage. A communitas is people going through the same challenge or life change you are going through. It is a very specific bond they share, because they are going through the same experience. A communitas can also be unhealthy, because they depend on each other too much and don’t initiate things on their own. An example of a communitas in my situation would be my roommates. They are all going through they same life changing situation I am going through and we have become friends because of it. We have become dependent on each other, but have begun to realize that we need to branch out of our small communitas. My communitas makes me feel very comfortable in my new host country. My greatest personal strengths have been getting to know people in my program and connect with all different types of people, who go to college all over the US. My greatest personal weaknesses within my communitas are that we rely too much on each other and need to become more independent while living here. I observe other students interacting with the dynamics of communitas in a similar way. It is a great support system and I would not be this far without it, but we all feel we must be a bit more independent and perhaps do something so small as venturing to the local boulangerie without each other.

We must expect challenges to occur at the liminal sate. Challenges occur in the liminal stage, because we are not yet adjusted to our new host country, nor are we physically in our native country. I have faced several challenges thus far, some small, others a bit larger. Some challenges thus far in my journey include my flight delay, getting adjusted to the language barrier, the food here, and just how French people operate in general. I have learned that I am constantly comparing what is here and the culture of France to America. French food has been a big challenge for me. I am a very picky eater and with the language barrier I have a difficult time communicating at a restaurant what I want to order, let alone picking something out on the menu that I like or am willing to try. I hope to become more open minded with my food options. I have learned that I have to be more open minded about my food options and not limit myself so much.

In Becoming World Wise, Simbach notes that it takes work for the strangeness of paradoxical living to wear off. My program is a study center, which means it is not a French institution and it is only American students. This leaves little room for me to meet international students and that will definitely be a challenge. Some strategies I use and plan to use to “find imaginative ways to invite the unknown and cultivate a network of close-knit and supportive international friends,” include joining a club my program recommended to meet weekly with international students. Another strategy I would like to use to meet international is simply trying to speak French. The more effort I put into it, the better my French will be by the end of my journey. Some students are taking classes at The Sorbonne and The Novancia School of Business, which will be a great opportunity to meet more international students. Unfortunately, I will not be in those schools, but I hope to meet international students from some of my friends taking classes there. Also, one of the housing options mixes local French students with American students from my program. This is a great opportunity to meet international students and I hope to be visiting some of my friends in their housing to meet their French roommates.

Balcony view from my apartment

Balcony view from my apartment

The picture I chose to best describe my journey to date is a picture I just took off of my balcony this morning. You can see the Pere Lachaise cemetery in the back of the picture to the left of the tan colored building. It is a famous cemetery, where many historical figures were buried, along with some more notable graves, such as Jim Morrison, Edith Pilaf, and Oscar Wilde. We are in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, which is the last district of Paris and is a bit further from many of the sightseeing and museums we want to go to. On the bright side we have a very, very spacious apartment, and not to mention a lovely view of the Pere Lachaise cemetery. Continue reading

Travel Log 2: “Looking Behind and Looking Ahead: Rites of Separation” by Kayla Vitas. Little Silver, NJ.

Before filling out my separation letter, I plan on sharing it with both my mother and father. My parents and I have had many conversations about different aspects of my study abroad experience such as countries I should see, what I should pack, and how to be safe when I am traveling. However, we have yet to go into full depth on how I will separate from not only them but also and the lifestyle that I am used to. Family dinners have always been an important part of my life because they allow us to have detailed conversations, which is why I plan on sharing my letter with them during a family dinner. One quote that stuck out to me and I found would be beneficial in explaining a healthy separation to my parents was, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” This quote by Mark Twain was very beneficial to include in my separation letter because it shows my parents that I need to venture away from what I am used to in my everyday life in order to experience new aspects of the world.

When sitting down and explaining to my parents the separation phase, I explained that it is important because it will allow me to fully experience the cultures, people and places wherever I go. I am looking to get the most out of my time abroad as possible and my constant reliance on my cell phone and communication with my family may hinder me from completely separating. I explained to my parents that in order to facilitate a healthy separation, I will not communicate with them daily, but I will be sure to update them once or twice a week by either texting them or Facetimeing with them. Due to the fact that my mother and I speak everyday, this was a bit shocking to her but we are both ready to take on this separation positively and courageously because we know it will be beneficial for my experience.

To complete a successful study abroad experience, I want to look back on my five months in Europe and have no regrets. Not only do I want to travel around my host country, Spain, but I also want to travel through different countries and experience different lifestyles. Participating in a student exchange in Granada, Spain when I was a senior in high school helped me to learn more Spanish in a short two weeks than I did in four years of education. With this previous experience, I am looking forward to picking up my Spanish speaking ability again and improve as much as possible. It has always been a dream of mine to become fluent in another language and although I may not become fluent in those five short months, I am one step closer to reaching one of my life goals.

Since I was a sophomore in high school, I have struggled with anxiety frequently. However, over the past five years, I am proud to say that I have overcome many aspects of my anxiety, which has helped me grow as an individual. Due to the fact that this is going to be one of the biggest changes in my life so far, handling my anxiety without the usual help of my mother will measure my success during my time abroad. Being in control of my anxiety is going to truly impact my experience. If I am unable to handle my anxiety in certain situations, I will not be as open to new adventures that will be available to me.

From talking with my parents, friends, mentors and previous students who have traveled abroad, I am aware that I am going to face challenges. However, I have learned that these challenges will not necessarily be negative ones. Although I was only in Europe for two weeks when I was in high school, I experienced challenges and lessons that I will take with me while I am abroad. One example of this was when a group of friends and I got lost in Cordoba, Spain and were forced to find our way back to the hotel using only a map. As you can guess, this was a huge struggle because this was the first time most of us had used a map and had no way of communicating with our teachers. Through this challenge, I was forced to stay calm and be fully aware of my surroundings. I am confident that these traits will be necessary when traveling in places that are foreign to me. As of now, I am more than ready to appreciate the new cultures that I will be immersed into. I am looking forwards to speaking (or trying to speak) with locals, as well as meeting communitas (people who are going through the same experience as I am). Both of these groups of people will contribute to fully having a successful study abroad experience.

The picture that I chose to best describe my journey so far is waves crashing on the beach. Just as one wave crashes, another wave forms in preparation to crash. It is a cycle that never stops, which is similar to what I have experienced during the past couple of weeks. Whether it is an emotion I am feeling, things I am buying for my trip or clothes I am packing, each thing comes right after another, just like the waves. Sometimes the ocean is calm and other times it becomes rough, but it is always a beautiful part of life. So far, this is exactly how my journey has started, but even though it can get rough sometimes, I always remind myself that I am on a beautiful adventure.

Travel Log 4 “Studying Abroad…It’s More Than Just A Walk In The Park” by Domenique DeLucia. London, England

This exercise was interesting because I thought that after being in the city for about 2 weeks now, that I would have gotten the gist of at least the surrounding area that I live in. I couldn’t have been more wrong when I took this walk and explored deeply into the historically rich and beautiful London.

I have always noticed that the people in London are ALWAYS dressed nice, some of course are a little over the top, why in the world are you wearing that when it’s 9 degrees out? But they are never in sweatpants unless they do intend to actually work out. You just will never find people dressed down like they just rolled out of bed.

The streets are always packed and interesting enough, you want to walk on the right hand side of the “footpath” at all times, and in the tube stations unless otherwise noted (which is just really confusing, it’s sort of like the confusion I get when I see cars driving on the other side of the rode with the driver’s seat where the passenger seat is. Oh wonderful UK). There are always people everywhere and the activity just feels the air. You will hear laughing, loud voices and soft-spoken and even yelling. Boy do they know how to insult when they want to here. You will also without a doubt when you take the tube, one of the stations you end up in, there will be a homeless person begging for change with a dog or a amateur musicians performing for change in hopes they can be noticed and live out their dreams. Some are really amazingly good.

Food stands are EVERYWHERE so the aroma of smells you get every block you pass will literally make you hungry, even if you ate 2 minutes before. Trust me. I bought something from a stand just because it smelt good. Thank god the taste also translated when I finally ate it later in the day!

London I feel is very much like a New York, in which that there is always people and movement and activity happening in the streets. I wouldn’t necessarily say that people here seem to always be in a rush, they are definitely more laid back but fast paced, liveliness of the atmosphere is definitely the same.

Walking around and discovering different places and people taught me so much about the world in general, especially being in London. It is so much like a melting pot of culture in this great city. Walking around the city, and making small talk with strangers in cafes and food stands makes me feel like I am actually in a foreign country, not visiting famous monuments or museums (which is awesome by the way!).

Slimbach states that, “The effort you exert walking drives a place into memory. When you’ve walked it, it’s yours. You’ve been there” (182). I couldn’t agree more that just walking around and taking the tube and public transportation and just seeing everything it makes me remember my time, remember the places I saw and passed. The places I took pictures of because I thought the graffiti art looked cool or a funny store sign that I thought my friends would die at. I just find myself wandering, and purposely looking at all the places and people that I pass. I learned that you don’t need a materialized object to capture the essence of a city. I don’t need to take a picture of the London Eye or Buckingham Palace to know I am indeed in London. The walk I talk to go to Sainsbury’s (a local grocery store) nearly 3 times a week, I feel like I notice something new every time I walk it, and it’s maybe a 3 minute walk if that. The people, the places, the food, the music, the atmosphere, it sucks you in and makes you notice it.

For my travelogue I read “In Search of London” by H.V. Morton. It’s the product of his fourth visit to the city, which occurred, during or somewhat before 1951. England and it’s capital were still recovering from the destructive effects of World War II, and George VI was still King. He points out in order to be able to show changes he’d seen over time, his first visit was as a child in the closing years of Victoria’s reign. He takes us for a walk with him as he rediscovers and falls in love with the city again.

He is so vivid in his talks of the city itself and the destruction that has been caused. He has a wonderful way of presenting things to you as if they are happening in that very second instead of just a retelling of a past event. He goes in and out of current day to past tense that it’s intense but interesting to move in and out of the changes that he and the city both experienced.

We are literally walking with Morton as he discovers the city all over again, after the war damaged this city that he deeply loves. I am essentially on this same journey with him, catching up with the history and life that these streets and these buildings have gone through. To grasp the true beauty of the things around us that makes this city what it is: the culture, the buildings, the people, the history, and the life. These are the things that make you fall in love with the city of London; the reasons why you will miss it when you go back home. It won’t be Big Ben, or the London Eye; it’ll be the guy who works around the corner from your dorm who you say hi to every morning when you are off to class or the local grocery store you frequent your time in, essentially your communitas.

My walk made me think differently and see things differently. I don’t want to just look at a building and see a building. I want to see the history of it, figure out the history of the area that I live in. I don’t want to just look at a museum or a monument and just take it at face value. I don’t want to just pass a coffee shop, and think of it as only a place to get coffee. I want to see it as a place where I had an amazing conversation with Anne. A lovely Norwegian girl who just so happens to be studying abroad as well and lives in my dorms. I want to add my own history to these streets and to these places.

Travel Log 1: “Laying the Foundation” by Ariel Olivieri. Dunedin, New Zealand.

Upon receiving the emails that I was enrolled in this course I was ecstatic! I knew that taking this course in New Zealand would benefit me far more than if I was taking it in a classroom in Connecticut. However, when I read that we had to attend two, six-hour Saturday workshops I was less than thrilled. Fortunately for me, the workshops kept me engaged and I actually learned useful information that would help me in the future. After attending the first workshop I actually looked forward to the second one. These workshops cleared up any worries I had about the transition I would soon be facing and the information I was presented allowed me to alter my perspective on the trip I would soon embark on.
One major aspect of the curriculum that has stuck with me is the idea of liminality. Previously I had never considered that there was in-between stage during a transition. The idea of a person being neither here nor there was new to me. I now know that when an individual is going through a transition they are leaving their old self behind, and becoming someone new, but during this transition they aren’t who they will be, and they are no longer who they were. They are temporarily living between two structured worlds. They are in the liminal phase. It makes sense and it’s true. When I am on my way to New Zealand I will not be who I was when I left, but I won’t be who I will be when I am finished. I will be in the liminal stage. Another part of the workshops that I enjoyed and that has changed me for the better was the viewing of the movie “Crossing Borders”. My friend is currently studying in Morocco and after seeing the movie I immediately told her to watch it. The film opened my eyes to the fact that everyone has their own stereotypes, and most of the time it’s not true. It also taught me that through clear communication and an open mind, anyone can get along, that holding prejudices against people is wrong, and just because one person like them did something wrong, does not mean they are a bad person. When going into a foreign country people are going to stereotype us as lazy Americans who don’t care about anyone but themselves, who are rude, and who get life handed to them on a silver platter. This is going to be false, but they will not know that. Through clear communication and a good attitude, us Americans can clear up these falsehoods and show them that not all Americans are bad, just like the students did in the movie. This is a film I believe everyone should view, even if they aren’t traveling to another country. It opened up my eyes and I believe it will open up other people’s eyes too.
In the introduction to “Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning” by Richard Slimbach, many of the workshop concepts that we discussed are brought up. For instance, Slimbach states that, “The new combines with and coexists with the old” (Slimbach 4). I believe that this line directly relates to the idea of the new status. When going through a rite of passage the person is not expected to become an entirely new person, but a person who has matured or changed in a positive and beneficial way. They have new knowledge or a new title that “combines with and coexists with” the traits they previously had. Another line that directly correlates with the material form the workshop is, “Instead of indulging a sentimental longing for an irrecoverable past, we should treat the complexity of our contemporary situation as offering a ‘teachable moment’ that is truly extraordinary” (Slimbach 4). This, to me, is saying that there will be obstacles, or tricksters, along the way and these obstacles may cause us to long for our past, or our home, or something familiar to comfort us, but instead of going back to what we know, we should take advantage of what is happening in the present and learn from it. Use this trickster has a “teachable moment” and learn from our mistakes. View it in a positive light.
The travelogue I chose is called “A Land of Two Halves: An Accidental Tour of New Zealand” by Joe Bennett. I chose this book because the author moved to the country ten years prior to writing the book, and although he had lived there for several years, he never knew why he stayed. He embarks on a journey across the two islands, exploring his surroundings, and determining what exactly it is about New Zealand that attracts him. The book is interesting because it gives background information, as well as, fun facts about the locations he travels too and he does so in a creative and entertaining way. Also, he is giving a tour of the islands and sharing stories along the way. After reading this book I will gain knowledge about my host country and I will find a few destinations that I must visit myself. Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 12.05.22 PM