Ever since I began my college career at Quinnipiac, my family never truly asks what I am learning in school like they used to when I was younger, nor have I really had the chance to sit down and talk to them about it. What I love most about composing Separation Letters was that they not only reflect upon my journey ahead to Perugia, Italy, but they also give me the chance to explain the educational significance behind this Rite of Passage experience. As I said in my letter to them, “I understand how separation from a loved one can be viewed as something emotional, something negative, and something hard to cope with.” The negative emotions that derive from separation give it a negative stigma, and this is why it is sometimes so challenging for those who leave to find the right words to say, and for those they are leaving behind to see the growth and strength that comes with separation. As Catholics, my family and I rely on the power of prayer whenever we are weak and in need. The Bible provided me with the words that I was at a loss of finding, as well as the comfort that my family needs as they wish me safe travels to Italy:
“The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.”
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
-2 Corinthians 12: 9-10
The Lord will not only watch over me as I travel overseas and discover more of His beautiful, cultural creation, but He will also relieve my family of any worries they may have as I embark on this new journey. The second quote insinuates that by weakening my attachment to what is familiar, what is comfortable, what is usual, and immersing myself in what is unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and unusual, I will come back as a stronger individual who is more aware of the global community, more respectful of people’s differences, more resilient when there are challenges, and more open-minded when there is change. Following these biblical passages in my letters, I encouraged my loved ones to turn to prayer in order to facilitate a healthy separation. Turning to faith and asking for guidance through this Rite of Passage will reassure my family and friends that my study abroad experience is truly a time of personal and cultural growth.
Once I found the words to say to my family and friends in my Separation letters, I decided to personally hand them out to each of them on New Year’s Eve. New Years is a holiday where we list our resolutions with the hopes of achieving personal growth; this is exactly what I hope to do as I embark on my journey to Perugia, Italy. I would be lying if I said that there were no tears shed the minute I said the word “separation” while briefly explaining the significance of the letters to my family and friends. As I said before, separation from loved ones typically holds a negative stigma, but I believe that once they have read my letter, they will be able to see the transformative beauty of the Separation phase. While composing my letter and reflecting on my Rite of Passage ahead, I came to the realization that I am not the only one who is undergoing personal growth through the three stages–my family and friends are, too. They may not be overseas with me, but they, too, have to separate from having me around, transition into liminality and learn about different cultures by following my experience via the sharing of these travel logs, and help to reincorporate me into the life I left behind and apply all that I have learned to my life and theirs. This enlightened my worldview about leaving to study abroad and has further prepared me to fully participate in my Rite of Passage experience.
Some challenges that I feel will hold me back from separating and having an “successful” education abroad experience would be if my family and friends give me a hard time about communicating often while abroad. As the first-born daughter, my parents can be very protective over me and sensitive when I cannot communicate with them when I am busy at school. As much as I want to share my exciting experience with them as I progress through the semester, I also do not want to be held back by dwelling on life at home. I chose to study abroad in order to do something for myself, to be solely responsible for my own well-being and focus on my personal growth–and I mean this in the least selfish way possible. As the oldest of three siblings and a disciplined, hard worker, I rarely get to put myself first. I am always busy helping my siblings grow and setting a good example for them, trying to balance academic and extracurricular responsibilities, and doing everything with nothing less than passion and the utmost effort. Long-story short, I am always on fast forward. This is my time to displace myself from being the “second mom” of my family, from stressing myself out and putting so much pressure on myself, and place myself in a different atmosphere, a different culture where all I have to focus on is trying new things, appreciating the Italian culture, and, most importantly, learning about new people to learn more about myself. Thus, a “successful” education abroad experience for me would be setting aside a weekly period of time to talk to family members so I can maintain a healthy separation between us, remaining open-minded when trying new things and adapting to the language barrier, strengthening my patience and resilience, and embracing challenge and change when I least expect them.
The image that I chose that best describes my journey to date and the journey ahead would be a bridge comprised of puzzle pieces. I think of my Rite of Passage stages and the places I will visit abroad as the platforms that the bridges of puzzle pieces connect. I collect the puzzle pieces I have already traveled upon in order to build a bridge leading to my next destination. Metaphorically speaking, I am taking the lessons and skills that have lead me to one phase or location in order to reach the next. Depending on one’s actions and decisions, puzzles can present challenges where pieces do not fit in or interlock. Hardships and tricksters may arise that can lead one off their path of growth, taking a toll on one’s emotions and cognition. However, with patience, guidance from mentors, and a healthy amount of support from loved ones at home, I will be able to successfully put the puzzle pieces together upon my return from my Rite of Passage abroad experience, creating a portrait of both my journey and my new self that has been pieced together along the way. I look forward to building the first of many bridges into the global community a week from today and discovering my place within it.