Mama Mia, I cannot believe it: two weeks until I depart for Perugia, Italy! It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting in SC225 for the QU301 Rites of Passage workshop, staring at my blue folder with my name and study abroad destination on the front, not believing this was real life. As I compose this first reflective travel log, my dream of studying abroad is becoming more of a reality. Although I learned a great deal of lessons during the QU301workshops, there were two lessons in particular that resonated with me: what it means to be a global community and the transformative stages of a Rite of Passage.
The heart of the QU301 course is the definition of a global community. The concept is so grand given its sociological context—how an individual’s emotions, actions, and cognition have a profound effect on how the global community functions. Despite the overwhelmingly profound meaning of a global community, our class collaborated to define it and highlight its purpose:
“A global community is a share living space of interdependent individuals who are endowed with universal human rights, choosing to act upon them, embrace differences and work toward common goals.”
-QU301 Spring 2016 Class
One of the major aspects of our definition that was evident to me was this sense of togetherness that binds a global community, despite the members’ geographical, continental divides. In Robert Slimbach’s book, Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning, he, too, deems that unity is imperative to maintaining a global community: “…we are increasingly bound together by a single fate and shared identity” (Slimbach 6). Although members of the global community may be of diverse races, we are all members of the human race. My study abroad program, CISAbroad, has already made me and fellow travelers to Italy aware of this concept of a connected global community in our emails.
The greeting on almost all of the pre-departure emails reads, “Ciao, A Tutti!” In Italian, the phrase “a tutti” means “all together.” This email greeting was enough to ease my previous worries of being only one of two other Quinnipiac University students traveling to the small town of Perugia, Italy. I am most certainly not alone. Slimbach cites the “bridging capital” concept formulated by Harvard political scientist, Robert Putnam. This concept calls for members of the global community to perform “acts of friendship and solidarity rooted in a common reverence for human dignity, local knowledge, and the moral good” (Slimbach 10). It is our responsibility as members of the global community to be “bridging capital” as we travel overseas and meet other members in our host countries. This all being said, our QU301 class’s definition of a unified, global community, along with Slimbach’s viewpoints, have come full circle as I prepare to fully immerse myself not only into Italian culture, but also into the global community. Undergoing the different stages of a Rite of Passage is how I will do so effectively.
Rites of passage can take the form of triumphs or tribulations, especially as one progresses through the different stages. A personal experience of
mine especially inspires this theory: I am a two-time open-heart surgery survivor. I was born with two holes in my heart, both of which were repaired at nine days of age. Thirteen years later, I had my second cardiac procedure in order to remove the scar tissue from the previous surgery that had formed a membrane around my aortic valve, disrupting breathing and blood flow. Ever since the day I came home from Boston Children’s Hospital, I have learned to never take a single breath for granted. Through this turning point in my life, I now know that my mission here is to not only educate children, but to also inspire them to make a mark on the world.
As a result, my cardiac “setbacks” never held me back; conversely, they have encouraged me to do more than I ever thought I could. My surgeries are such significant experiences in my life that have not only kept me here, but have also made me who I am today. Thus, my two open-heart surgeries are my Rites of Passage. Prior to my procedures, I was on the “Old Status” stage, receiving the news that I required the heart surgeries served as my “Rite of Separation,” my stay at the hospital post-op was during the “Liminal Status” stage, and reincorporating myself to life at home as a more grateful, motivated, and resilient individual was during the “New Status” stage. My open-heart surgeries serve as daily encouragements to do all that I want to do in this life, one of my most prominent goals being to study abroad, to undergo another Rite of Passage, to further discover myself and how strong I truly am.
Slimbach explains how undergoing a Rite of Passage like studying abroad places members of the global community in challenging situations in order to grow. Slimbach writes, “The goal of global education travel is to help us navigate this complex and contradictory world while challenging the limits of our intellectual and intercultural abilities” (Slimbach 8). Students who travel to other countries immerse themselves in a culture different from their own and interact with diverse members of the global community, thus challenging their actions, emotions, and cognition as they delve further into this “complex and contradictory world.” Like the Rite of Separation and the Liminal Status stage, “Global learning takes us away from our usual habitat in order to explore the realities of a wider world and our responses to it” (Slimbach 5). Study abroad students must separate from their native habitat at home to both discover other ways of life and rediscover themselves and their own ways of life. Just as I survived my two open-heart surgeries, my goal for studying abroad in Perugia, Italy is to embrace any challenges that come my way in order to become a newly reborn self upon my return. The travelogue book that I will be reading throughout my travels will certainly assist me as I transition through the stages of my Rite of Passage.
The travelogue book that I have chosen is Martha T. Cummings’s memoir, Straddling The Borders: The Year I Grew Up In Italy. What attracted me to this book the most was how the author and I share not only a love for
the Ocean State in which we live and for educating children, but also an eagerness to explore Italian culture. Cummings was never able to meet her Sicilian grandmother ; he died before she was born. In pursuit of her Italian heritage, Cummings studies abroad at the University for Foreigners in Perugia to further educate herself before meeting her Sicilian relatives. As Slimbach writes, “The world becomes a living classroom…a truly liberal education” (Slimbach 5). Like Cummings, I also plan to branch out beyond the four walls of the elementary classroom to educate myself through my Rite of Passage experience in Italy. I hope to walk in Cummings’s footsteps by remaining open-minded, making memories that will last a lifetime, and learning from any and all challenges that I face just as she did.
Cummings, Martha T. Straddling The Borders: The Year I Grew Up in Italy.
Boston, MA: Branden Pub., 1999. Print.