It doesn’t seem real that I am leaving in five days. I don’t feel I am ready to go at all, from a packing standpoint anyway. It has been a hectic last week of trying to gather all of my clothes and personal belongings and make them fit into one large suitcase (I am too cheap to pay an additional 100$ for a second bag). Although I am determined to pack light, I know that it won’t happen and I’m sure on Tuesday I will be painfully removing last minute items to get my bag under the weight limit! Mentally I think I am ready to go, as I have been anticipating this week for months now and I honestly couldn’t be more excited.
I have said goodbye to a lot friends and family already and yesterday I shared my separation letter with my parents; those are the only family members that I currently live with. I have two older sisters but they live in Richmond and Boston. When I sat down on the couch to share it with them, it was certainly kind of awkward at first. I shared some background information about what this class is and how we are exploring the traditional rite of passage at it connects to our journey abroad. I told them that the first phase is separation and that I will need their help to successfully separate from home. I further told them that this means they have to trust my decisions and not try to contact me everyday when I first arrive. While this may be difficult for them, especially my worrisome mother, I know that they will respect my decision and let me figure things out on my own.
The quote that I selected which culminates my feelings on the act of separation is the following, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress” –Frederick Douglass. I think this quote describes my journey of separation best; while it is a struggle, it is one that I will go through so I can grow as a person. Being this close to departure I have to be ready to leave everything behind that I’m so used to and I really feel like I am ready. I have been anticipating this moment for a long time now, so for it to finally arrive has me so excited! The only thing that may hold me back in a healthy separation is social media. Like most young adults, I am constantly scrolling through social media, and I think that doing this in Ireland will be harmful to me in trying to completely separate. It will be hard to look at pictures of my friends enjoying time together back in Hamden, CT, but I will always remind myself that being abroad is a much cooler experience. The only other thing I am not fully prepared for is the thought of living in hostels when I travel to other parts of Europe. I have become so accustomed to the cleanliness of American hotels that going to these hostels will definitely be a large change.
To me, a successful education abroad will involve really delving in and learning about Irish history and also about modern cultural issues, but at the same time befriending a local.
is my most important, meaningful goal. Part of the reason I choose Cork is because I felt this would be one of the easier locations in the world to make friends with the locals, since Irish people are so friendly. Slimach stresses the important of this in Chapter 5, explaining how a knowledgeable traveler is “one who cares enough about the peoples and places in one’s destination country to invest the time learning about them “ (128). This is important to me, a lot of people I know going abroad want to travel every weekend—that is not me. While I do want to travel and explore other cultures, I am most concerned with engrossing myself in Irish culture. I want to be able to come home in December and explain to my family what it truly feels like to live and study in Ireland for five months. I am not going to measure my success by how much I know or how many locals I have befriended at the end of this trip; instead, I will measure it based on my overall happiness and satisfaction at the end. An “unsuccessful” study abroad experience to me would be one that is too “American”. This would mean only hanging out with other U.S. students, or looking for stores, food places, and entertainment options that closely resembles our American ways.
Looking ahead, I know that this semester is going to fly by just as the summer has. I feel ready to take on some of the unexpected challenges that come with studying abroad. One expected challenge that I feel only partially ready for is having to cook for myself. Up until now I have had a meal plan, so this will be the first time in my life that I have to be totally self-sufficient food-wise. My goal is to not resort to instant meals everyday, but instead learn to cook and try new foods. I am a person who likes adventures and change, so I think with my daring attitude I will have no problem embracing both expected and unexpected challenges from this experience.
As I reflect on my journey so far, a picture that I feel best describes it, particularly what I have been thinking, is the one to the right. I am a cognitive person when it comes to reflecting on everyday situations so I think this picture represents how my brain is reflecting and understanding my journey so far. At the center he “you” represents my brain, and on the outside the web of connections is all of the people, things and ideas I have had to put together thus far to prepare for my separation from home. Sometimes I felt like my brain is on overdrive trying to make sure I had every done that I need, that is why I choose this image with a lot going to represent my moments of confusion and overwhelming thoughts. But at the same time, the web can represent all of the people that I am connected to at home and how they have helped me remain calm and get ready for this life-changing experience abroad!