It’s unbelievable to wake up knowing that in a little over two weeks, I’ll be waking up on the other side of the world. For awhile, it seemed like my abroad experience wasn’t even real, as if it was some abstract thought in the distant future that I didn’t have to worry about. Because of the gap of time between our weekend in April and the actual trip abroad for the fall semester, filled with the end of the school year festivities, summer internships, and weekends at the beach, I am just now starting to come back down to reality. As I begin to make my preparations to leave, I am feeling much more anxious than I expected, but at the same time even more excited and ready to leave than ever. Because of my role as a Quinnipiac Orientation Leader, I will be in Hamden for the week before my flight. While that will give me a chance to say goodbyes, it now requires me to gather my belongings sooner and focus my mind on the journey ahead.
Thinking back on our class discussions, I remember feeling oddly comforted by the various stages and lifecycles of a study abroad student. While I love change and uncertainty, I am also aware that it brings waves of feelings, each with highs and lows. Looking at the diagram of the literal “Roller coaster of emotions,” it tells me that this will be common and perfectly normal. While looking at the philosophy of traditional rites of passage, I was extremely intrigued by the rite of separation and the idea of a communitas. Regarding separation, it is commonly one of the hardest parts of these rites, and I am no different. I am leaving behind a life at Quinnipiac that I have spent diligently building, complete with best friends, fraternity brothers, a girlfriend of a year and a half, and now freshmen students who I have just brought into the community that I must leave. “The first phase (of separation) comprises symbolic behavior signifying the detachment of the individual or group …from an earlier fixed point in the social structure.” While this may seem intimidating, it excites me that I am breaking away from my previous self into something new. The next idea, that of the communitas, is one that is very special to me. I choose to come to Quinnipiac because it made me feel like I was part of a community larger than myself, and it was only successful because I put myself out there and immersed myself in what it had to offer. I will approach my time in Spain no differently, hoping to engage with the local people, food, and culture as a whole, so that by the time I leave I will feel as if I am leaving my communitas, just as I am now.
After reading the introduction of Becoming World Wise, I have to admit that I am extremely excited for the rest of the book. Slimbauch uses relatable examples and real world knowledge to make sense of the both challenges and enriching aspects of studying abroad. He writes, “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. At it’s best, global learning takes us away from our usual habit in order to explore the realties of a wider world and our response to it.” (Slimbauch 4) This can explain our liminal status, which involves being fixed between two places. When completing this process, we must find meaning in new things in this interconnected world. The author goes on to write, “While the potential for global learning has never been greator, actually achieving it takes more than simply ‘being there’. Much depends on if our field experiences are structured in ways that promote meaningful intellectual and intercultural learning.” This was a great reminder that just because I am going to Barcelona does not mean that I will take away everything from the culture by simply living there and going to class. I must immerse myself in the local culture and put myself in situations that may seem uncomfortable, but will help my overall experience abroad.
In searching for a book to read about my new country, there were many travel books and guides to choose from. However, I was looking for something more than that. The perfect book came to me when all hope seemed lost, George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia”. Barcelona is the center of the Catalan region of Spain, with history of political turmoil and unrest. Orwell’s book has notes and observations from the Spanish Civil War involving the region, which still affect the culture today. This will help me better understand my new home’s history and culture.
It is now time to finish packing and head back to Hamden for the last time till January. In 9 days, I will be flying out!