While thinking about this whole separation process, I remembered one of the quotes given to us in the workshops, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” –Lao Tzu. I think writing my letter of separation was my “single step” in the direction of separation. I wrote my letter to the people that have been with me and there for me since before day one, my parents. I shared it with them in my living room when my dad came home from work, when they were both willing to listen with no distractions. I was absolutely dreading writing this letter and sitting them down to talk because I knew it would be a very emotional time. Being that I am the eldest child my parents have always been extra protective of me. They always have my best interest in mind and they are always trying to keep me safe. Needless to say, letting me venture abroad is a huge step for them. In order to avoid any freak-outs or them not taking me as seriously as I would like, I made my letter more of a conversation so that I could assess their feelings and concerns as I went along and answer questions to make sure we were all on the same page. I started the conversation with a brief summary of what I learned in the workshops and tried to explain the ROP diagram to them along with all of the steps I will be taking in my journey, specifically separation and its importance to my study abroad experience. I told them about my plans to limit my phone and social media use and asked them to abide by my wishes to not expect daily phone conversations. I thanked them for their support, for helping me to grow and mature into a new version of myself, and for giving me this phenomenal opportunity to do so.
My father in particular was a little confused about how my study abroad experience would change me as a person. I summed up the importance of this rite of passage with the quote “I didn’t know how much I didn’t know because I didn’t know how much there was to know.”-author unknown. I think this quote really helped him to comprehend how valuable stepping out of my home community and comfort zone is. By the end of our discussion he understood how my points of view would change due to my exposure to a new country and a new culture.
I really thought this conversation was going to hold me back from my separation, but I was surprised at how accepting and understanding my parents were to my plans. Our dialogue ended with them telling me how proud they are of all that I have accomplished and that although it will be hard for them to let me go, they really feel that I deserve this experience and that I am ready and prepared for it. Hearing that they believe in me made me feel more equipped than ever to take the next step in my journey and begin packing for my departure.
For me, a successful education abroad experience would consist of great grades and lots of fun. One of my main goals of this trip is to be able to balance schoolwork as well as free time and adventures. I have always put school before everything, and as important as I feel school is, I want to make it my second priority during my time abroad. You only get to experience this once in your life and I want to make it four months that I will remember forever. So that means taking risks, doing things I wouldn’t normally do or be able to do in my home country, trying new foods, seeing new places, making new friends, and just letting go and stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m obviously not planning on letting my grades slip, but when it comes down to staying in and doing schoolwork or going somewhere I’ve never been, I want to make myself choose going out nine times out of ten. This isn’t going to be easy for me because it will be a real change-up from what I am used to, but I’m going to give it everything I have. In order to keep track of this goal I am going to keep a journal of all of the “out of the ordinary” things that I do on this trip so I can really gauge how much time I spend doing new and exciting things. I would consider myself unsuccessful if I were to focus too much on either school or fun. I hope to achieve an acceptable balance between the two.
To be completely honest, I don’t know if I am ready to face unexpected challenges but I am definitely willing to try. Getting on a plane to study abroad is like signing the terms and conditions to accept and expect the unexpected. I won’t say that I am going to deal with all challenges in the best way possible and I might find some harder than others, but I am confident that I can get through whatever comes my way and I won’t let it bring me down or effect my experience too much. I plan on being as calm, open-minded, and easy-going as possible in order to let the small stuff roll off my back so that I can focus on the big picture and all the positives this opportunity is bringing me. I think taking on these challenges will help me continue my successful separation and allow me to further accept all of the new people, places, thoughts, and cultural aspects that come along with living in a new country.I chose this image to describe my journey to date because I have so many mixed feelings about leaving right now. Sometimes I am excited and ready to go, others I am sad about leaving my home, family, friends, and boyfriend, and other times I question whether study abroad is the right decision and if I can actually handle it. My emotions right now are like a traffic light with all three colors lit. I am nervous but I am confident that when I arrive in Spain and settle in to my new room with my new friends things will work out for the best. I just can’t wait until the anticipation and anxiety about leaving is finally over.