Sitting here as I type this blog post, I am 12 days, 29 minutes, and 48 seconds from departure. Seeing that down in print is shocking, as it seems like just a few weeks ago that I loaded up my little CR-V and left my home in Hamden for my home in Stony Brook. It seems unfathomable to me that in just a short amount of time I will be trading my CR-V for a plane, and setting out to find a third home in Florence. While I am nervous, I am also excited and exhilarated by the thought of traveling to a new place for four months.
Before attending the QU 301 workshops, I was unsure of what to expect. I was not thrilled about spending two beautiful weekend days in a classroom at a time when the weather was beckoning everyone to spend their days on the quad. However, after completing both days, I can say that the experience was completely worth the sacrifice of a few hours in the sun. I really liked the idea of making something meaningful out of my experience abroad. Although I had not considered it before, after thinking about everything that was discussed in the workshops, it seemed almost ridiculous have a study abroad experience which is devoid of meaningful reflection. Another thing that I liked from the workshop was that although the individual goes through the rite of passage, there will also be a community to support the individual. It is comforting to know that I will have a mentor to help guide me as I experience new things and that I will also have communitas who understand what this journey is like.
As discussed in the workshops, part of a traditional rite of passage is going through the liminal phase, in which the student taking the passage is “betwixt and between” the old self and the new self. I like the idea that the liminal phase allows the liminoid a “heightened awareness” which can bring on a “zone of creativity” and allow him or her to achieve new levels of understanding. It comforts me to think that although being in a foreign place may push my boundaries, if I embrace the newness of it all, I will be able to make meaning of this experience and maybe discover a new self. Slimbach touches on this in his introduction saying, “Without the requisite understandings and skills to learn with and from those in our field setting we will tend to accumulate novel experiences but without stepping much outside of our comfort zones” (Slimbach 7). He goes on to explain that if we shut ourselves off from new experiences, we cannot hope to take away new understandings. This makes me realize the importance of accepting change and differences while I am abroad, as it would be a shame not to capitalize on the opportunity to deeply learn through experience.
Slimbach also discusses achieving the common good in his introduction. The common good in terms of global learning means that the experience should not only benefit the student, but the community as well. He says, “Global learning must be not only in the world but also for it. Educational travel should leave the world a saner, stronger, and more sustainable place” (Slimbach 8). In order to create successful global learning, the student cannot be the only party who gets something out of the study abroad experience; otherwise, the journey is not truly global, but simply individual. This is something that was touched upon in the workshops. In the passage by Grimes that we read, he discusses how the absence of rites of passage creates a global problem because it prevents young people from learning societal roles and maturing. He calls for a reinvention of the rite of passage in order to combat this problem. Rites of passage require deep reflection, which Slimbach would argue encourages successful global learning. While I am abroad, I will reflect on my experiences in order to better myself so that I can contribute valuable things to society. I will also be a conscious and respectful citizen while in Florence so that I will contribute only good to the community.
The travelogue that I chose is called Not in a Tuscan Villa. I chose it because it is about travelers who go to Italy and try to have an authentic experience, instead of a tourist’s experience. I thought this would be most useful to me while abroad, as I hope to have an experience that is unique and meaningful.