My departure date is coming upon me quickly. I fly out in about five days, but I feel like I have still not yet begun to process the fact that I will be living in a new country in less than one week. The past few days have been spent shopping for things I might need, working out last minute details, and trying to pack everything that I need while keeping my suitcase under the weight limit. The business has kept me going, but the nerves have definitely started to creep in during my downtime.
Last night, my family went out to dinner to end the summer and say goodbye to my twin sister, who leaves to go back to school today. I figured that this dinner would be the perfect time to share my separation letter with my family. I started out by thanking my parents for allowing me this amazing opportunity, to which they responded “Of course, we just want you to have a good time and be happy” (What a predictable response). My parents are not the overprotective or nervous type. They have always given my sisters and me the right combination of space and guidance to allow us to learn about the world on our own and to have experiences that would shape us into successful adults. That being said, I knew that I still had to explain to them why it would be so important for us to have separation while I was away. I told them about the rites of passage and that separation is an important part because it is what will allow me to fully immerse myself in a new culture. I explained that if I feel overly homesick, I will not be able to get what I want out of my time abroad and I do not want to be too caught up in what is going on back in the States to enjoy my time. We decided that I would message them when I get to Italy to let them know that I have arrived, but after that we will way a few days to talk so that I can settle in. We will skype once a week to keep in touch after that.
I shared a quote by Liberty Hyde Bailey with my parents. The quote says, “When the traveler goes alone he gets acquainted with himself.” This quote helped me explain to my parents that when the study abroad experienced is looked at through a rite of passage lens, part of the outcome for the student is self-discovery. I told them that in order to complete this transition, I need to be able to be alone. After discussing this with my parents, I can confidently say that I am less nervous and am ready to separate from the familiar. Their support will give me strength and I will welcome the change with open arms.
One of the biggest challenges that I will face while I am abroad is not knowing the native language. I know that there will be many confusing conversations, but I plan on welcoming the confusion and the challenge and looking it as an opportunity to learn. I will be curious and ask many questions and I will also be resourceful and learn how to fend for myself in a foreign place. For me, a successful education abroad will be one in which I learn as much about my host country as possible and try to live like a local. An unsuccessful abroad experience would involve me being too homesick to try new things and trying to live like an America in Italy. Ultimately, I want to be happy and thoroughly enjoy the entire four months that I spend abroad. I look forward to learning what makes my cultural customs different from others as well as learning to love the differences.
This is a picture of my sisters and me last night at dinner. I chose it because I am currently at the point in my journey where it is time to separate from the people I love most. I am sad about leaving them, but also excited to start a new part of my life. I think that this separation will be very difficult, as my sisters and my parents are my best friends, but I know that I will be okay. I am sure that having the separation discussion before leaving will help me while I am abroad because everyone in my family will be on the same page. Now that I am beginning to complete my final tasks before leaving, I cannot wait to leave and see what Italy has in store for me!