In his book, Slimbach discusses how following a structured “story” while studying abroad will help students to find purpose for becoming globally competent. Part of the story is that while abroad, students have the opportunity to find their true selves. In chapter two of his book, he says, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” (54). This means that study abroad does not only teach us about the world beyond our home countries, but about the world that we are not in touch with inside of ourselves. Slimbach argues that when placed in a new country, the vulnerability that comes with the unknown connects us closer to our sense of self. This is in accordance with the liminality phase that we discussed in our workshops. This phase has the potential of bringing heightened awareness and creativity, and although it is uncomfortable, it may bring positive change. As I near the end of my liminal phase, I am reflecting on my experience and realizing that I have absolutely learned about myself. I have realized that I am a very independent person and that I am capable of doing things on my own. Also, I have realized that I am curious about what makes me inherently different from others, especially those who were raised in different countries, and that the beauty of these differences mystifies me and I want to learn more about them.
While learning about myself, I have also been learning about the differences and similarities between American and Italian culture. Slimbach says, “While the story we need begins within us, it cannot be fully realized apart from others” (55). In other words, a study abroad experience devoid of social interaction with strangers is devoid of meaning because we do not learn tolerance and appreciation of differences. Studying abroad has been amazing because it has taught me that American culture is very different from others, but it is important to appreciate those differences and extend respect, understanding, and love across the cultural diversities. I think that this is the most important part of being a global citizen. A global citizen is aware of the differences across the world, but recognizes the value in them. She sees that she can learn from the differences and also looks to identify places in the world where she fits in and can make a difference. The global citizen must use education and reflection to make meaning of global experiences and use that meaning to have a positive impact on the world.
Before we leave, my friends and I are going to go up to the point of the city that overlooks all of Florence and watch the sunset. We are going to reminisce on all of our memories that we have made together as communitas. We will look at where we started on our journey and how far we have come. As I prepare to leave Italy, it is incredibly bitter-sweet. I look forward to seeing my family and friends, but I am sad to leave this new life behind. In order to prepare for my departure, I have been taking walks alone and reflecting on my experiences, going on runs through my favorite parts of the city, and visiting my favorite shops and restaurants one last time. As I reflect on my time here, although I am sad to leave, I am also excited to see what the next part of my life has in store. Slimbach says that when looked at as a right of passage, travels abroad can signify “a profound movement from adolescent preoccupation with social standing to greater independence and self-suffiency” (40). Although Florence will always be a part of me, I am ready to leave and continue this new chapter of personal growth, both as an individual and as a global citizen.
The quote that defines my experience at this moment is, “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” Although it is simple, it is expressive of my emotions. Truthfully, I have spent much more money than I ever have this past semester and my bank account is seriously dwindling, but none of it matters. The people that I have met, the experiences I have shared, and the personal growth that I have endured has made it all more than worth it. As cheesy as it sounds, I could not put a price tag on an experience like this if I tried.