I continue to be amazed as to how quickly time goes by. It seems as though it was yesterday that we sat in the Law Library with wide eyes and mystic dreams of our study abroad adventures. Now, I am two weeks away from a journey that will take me halfway across the world. There is an unbelievable amount of excitement that accompanies this experience, but a certain amount of apprehension. The language, food, and culture may be some of the most appealing aspects about a new area, but also some of the most frightening. The opportunity to pick up your entire existence and go experience a new way of life is not something that happens everyday. The unknown has always been a tantalizing concept for me. It provides the opportunity to leave behind what and who you are and experience an evolving growth and maturity.
Rites of passage provide an outline to guide many of the changes that we will experience over the next four months. In my current state, separation, there is a focus on a symbolic ‘death.’ It seems strange to think of this amazing adventure beginning in death, but I understand the intention behind this remark. As I embark on this experience I am not only embracing change, but also seeking it. I desire the surface change in scenery and customs, but long for changes on a deeper level. I leave behind the person that I am in order to find out more about myself. This is not to say that I am dissatisfied with my current state of being, but more reflective of my desire to consistently attempt to develop as a person.
In Becoming World Wise, Slimbach makes an insightful statement on travel and personal growth. He says, “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” (p. 5). Living in our current society, we experience fast paced, but also sheltered lives. It is easy to fall into a routine and not experience life outside of a protected bubble. By moving your location, you disrupt this structured setting you have become accustomed to and force yourself to adjust to new ways of living. This process promotes personal growth.
The separation phase may be focused on the death, but I prefer to think of the whole process as an evolution. I am not a species that is becoming extinct. When I return I am likely to still look and act fairly similar to my previous being, but I will have undergone personal change that will make me more capable to function in a new environment. I will be more adapt to change and more aware of the world around me. I will not be dying, but developing. The being that I once was will not be lost, but rather grown.
To help guide the changes that I will experience abroad, I have selected a book that talks about the struggles and growth of an individual. Switzerland is well known for its mountainous terrain and active climbing scene. The novel, the White Spider, followed the journey of Heinrich Harrer, the first individual to successfully ascend the north face of Eiger. This was a task looked upon by most as impossible, but by Harrer as another challenge. The book accounts Harrer climbs as well as this travels in the country. I will gain perspective on the personal struggles of one man and observe his rites of passage throughout this journey.