It seems like it was only a brief daydream, where it was decided that I would indeed be traveling abroad this fall semester. Wasn’t it only yesterday that we all met as a group, shared our nervous excitements and doubts? It feels only too real now that in two weeks I’ll be on my own in a place unknown to me. Despite the butterflies fluttering in my stomach, I feel a sense of peace when I remember our workshop, our first step in preparing for this journey. Remembering the discussions we had about Rites of Separation, makes me feel that these feelings and thoughts are normal and that I’m not the only one going through them.
At this moment I am slowly inching towards that symbolic ‘death’ we discussed. I feel ready to go, as if the day I depart from the places I’ve always known couldn’t come fast enough. However, at the same time I am conflicted. With all the sad things that have happened during this short summer, which have brought my family closer together, I can only wonder if now is such a good time to break away and find myself. Perhaps, now is the best time. It’s at this moment that I look back to Lillian Smith’s quote, “ I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” I remember, once again before I lose myself to the creeping doubt and fear of leaving the familiar, that I’m not really leaving it behind, but rather adding to the world I already know. It’s also at this time where I remember I’m not the only one going through this. In the workshop a word was discussed communitas, and although I may be traveling alone, I am not alone in the sense of travel. I now realize how important that simple word is because there’s no one there holding your hand, and there’s no one who will know what your going through except for those experiencing the same thing. It’s through these communitas that “we”, the initiates, can come together to support one another through our journey’s and challenges we may face. It’s these things that we discussed that ring clear in my mind when remembering our first steps in our journey.
After reading the introduction to Slimbach’s Becoming World Wise, I can already see a connection between what he describes and how I can relate. When we all first met, we had a long and hard discussion in deciding how to define global community. After, sometime we finally decided on a working definition, “Global Community is comprised of all living things who make up smaller communities that are joined by the desire to achieve human rights.” Learning in a different environment, becoming part of new community, these are small achievements in comparison to the potential of what Slimbach calls ‘global education’. He says, “Although the potential for acquiring a truly global education has never been greater, actually achieving it requires more than simply “being there.” Much depends on whether our field experiences are structured in ways that promote meaningful intellectual and intercultural learning” (Slimbach, 2010, p.7). When I think back to what we discussed, I remember how it was stressed that we as students studying abroad cannot waste such an opportunity to learn and experience the different cultures we will be exposed to. The world back home and the people home will always be there, regardless of our comfort and insecurities, we cannot remain holed in our rooms or cling to what we deem familiar. If we are “just there”, what is the point, our opportunity to take that ‘leap of faith’ will pass us by without giving us a second glance. I am a firm believer that of the saying “you don’t know if you don’t try”. How are we supposed to get the most out of this experience, how are we supposed to grow and learn from such an opportunity if we can’t let go of the security of what we deem familiar. Once we take this step from the familiar to the new and unfamiliar world, we can then discover the communities around us and become part of this working ecosystem of people on a global scale. That’s what it come down to really, different country, different culture, different view, and different people. However, in the end it’s just another community, a different one from the one you are accustomed to, but one that just like the one back home, is working together to achieve the same desire. That’s what makes up the global community that we are so desperately trying to learn from and about.
In addition, these changes and new environments give us a chance to reflect on who we were before our journey and who we have become since our departure. I think that’s another important thing that Slimbach brings up. These preconceived notions of not only the culture and people of our host country and of us as foreigners (Americans). In chapter five Slimbach states, “ Besides making logistical arrangements, the profiled phase of our journey requires that we also complete certain preparations of the mind. “Doing our homework” prior to departure enables us to comprehend some of the most important historical events, as well as existing social, economic, and political systems, that shape the cultural realities within our destination country.” (Slimbach, 2010, p.127). This is extremely important especially when tied together with ABC model of culture contact. This model will help us in our reflection process so that we might ever slowly change to become a new and fulfill our rites of passage. If we are to learn, understand, and embrace this new world around us we cannot remain ignorant. It is our job as learned people, to weed out the falsehoods and truths these preconceived notions of our host country in order to act and react appropriately to correct the preconceived notions about ourselves (Americans).
In saying as much, Slimbach stresses the subject of obtaining preparatory knowledge. Before we depart, we were all asked to chose a travelogue of our host country. A detailed retelling of someone else who has experienced what it is like to live day to day in our host country. This tool which will help further our knowledge and perhaps give us some encouragement as well. I hope the hunt for a travelogue was easier for you than mine was. In my search for a travelogue for Wales I sadly came up either empty handed or swamped with heartfelt tales of hiking the great paths of the Welsh mountain side. Although interesting it was not precisely what I was looking for. I broadened my search and decided a travelogue of the United Kingdom would prove the same usefulness, although I will be getting a lot more information, it is still essential. The point in travel is not to just remain still but to explore.
I finally settled on a travelogue by Paul Theroux, The Kingdom by the Sea: His candid and compulsive account of a journey round the cost of Great Britain. Although it covers the whole of Great Britain, he does visit Wales, so it works out perfectly. One of the important reasons I chose this one out of others was because Paul Theroux is an American who’s lived in London for 11 years, but had never in that time stepped outside of London. This gives, hopefully, an interesting view on things. I thought it was fitting considering that the author and I were the same in way. The first thing that pulled me towards this travelogue was that he was exploring a world outside of what he’d know. The second was because I can relate to him in the sense that we both hailed from America, perhaps he can shed some light on the differences in living in each country. Another, concept which led me to choose this specific travelogue is that, it’ll give me knowledge about other countries surrounding Wales that way when I travel I may be a little more familiar with the areas, should I visit.
As I prepare for my departure, I wish you well on yours.