As the days approach before I leave I could not be more excited. My parents are just as excited as well. My siblings on the other hand do not understand as much how big of a transition and life change I will endure. I feel it will be toughest on them when they realize I am actually gone and they cannot speak to me freely. I have always been the big sister that all 3 siblings will go to for their personal problems, seeking advice. What they have not noticed is that I will not be a simple text or phone call away to listen and help or for them to share great news instantly. It is my twin sister, Taylor, who I decided to write my letter to in order to explain my separation, in a healthy way, and how it is necessary for a complete transition. I wanted to share the letter with my sister in her room (where she would feel most comfortable) when she was available, which happened to be the morning of January 8th before her class at URI.
When we are home my sister and I are typically always together. We share the same friends and like to do the same things. This leads to her venting to me about many things, which is what I needed to tell her I could not have while I was abroad because I needed to be detached but also I will no longer have the ability to instantly respond. Telling her this I knew was going to be very difficult; I was rather nervous. However, I found the following quote that I knew would explain to her why I needed this healthy separation:
But our real frontier lies elsewhere, in traveling more wisely– transforming fragments of information into real knowledge that can then be applied to forming cross-cultural friendships, cultivating understanding, and addressing the most pressing problems that confront humankind. (Slimbach 150)
She loved it. She wasn’t just happy that I shared with her my ideas on how I would like to be separated, which is good for us in general, but it made her realize the journey I was about to embark on. I am not just traveling to Barcelona to “check it out” but I am going to immerse myself into a completely unknown culture and learn from it. In my letter I also told her how I will watch sunsets half way across the world and will think of her. The photo I included (Taylor with the bun taking a photo of the sunset) suits this because we always watch sunsets together; to us they stand for the beauty in every ending but also not one sunset is ever the same as another.
After seeing how happy it made my sister knowing how great this trip is going to be for me I feel a lot more prepared to separate from everything that is routine/familiar and participate fully in the education abroad experience. I now feel as if there isn’t anything specific that may hold me back from a healthy separation because my family is 100% supporting and encouraging me.
A successful abroad experience for me would be relinquishing all ties back home, at least keeping them to a minimum, and embracing the journey. I would recognize that my mind has stretched from the experience due to the new perspectives I realize I am looking through that I never had before. I could achieve this through proper language immersion and growing in independence. An unsuccessful abroad experience would be little to no language immersion and not even the care to develop cultural competencies. I personally find the learning of the language important and that is what I will be able to tangibly measure for success.
No matter how prepared I feel I know there will be unexpected challenges but I am willing to expect and accept them. I find that these challenges are simply learning experiences with a different type of disguise. It is an open mind, optimism, and passion I plan to embrace so that I can expect and accept the unexpected. These attitudes and character traits will prepare me and allow me the appreciated the diversity in my new surroundings, lifestyle, and friendships.