“The flight to our chosen field is often filled with built-up anticipation. At the same time, it can be marked by discomforts and uncertainties” (Slimbach). I don’t think a quote better describes my study abroad experience so far. Going through the orientation exercises I have come to realize I truly am in the liminal phase, not yet a local but I have separated in a healthy way from my family and friends. My first weekend in Paris, I decided to explore the city. In my head, I had decided that by doing this I would be shortening my liminal phase by allowing myself to become familiarized with the city faster. My attempt at expediting the process only showed how much I do not know the city of Paris. I got lost in an unsafe area, and after almost an hour of wandering, I found a metro stop that could take me safely back to a well known area. Like Slimbach, I then asked myself, “Who would subject themselves to the disoriented confusion involved with getting there?” Upon reflection it’s interesting to see how in fact, simple everyday tasks that I once never thought twice about then took courage whilst I was here.
Simple tasks like riding the metro by myself for the first time, going into a fresh food market, buying the newspaper and cooking for myself. Those things became little triumphs for me, things that were once so arbitrary. I believe that even these feelings are attached to the liminal phase. When my program had its orientation, the director told us that study abroad students are like small children learning to grow up in the city of Paris. Firstly, we are discovering the city on our own. Secondly, we’re learning the language, sentence structure, new words, and social etiquette. Thirdly, we must emerge independents, we cannot depend on other to do things for us or with us, we must learn to be our own person in this new city. “The link between walking and learning is significant. We humans are pedestrians” (Slimbach) I love being able to walk around Paris, just my own arrondissement. And if I truly wanted to, I could walk to the Eiffel Tour or the Louvre Museum. What I love, is that now I’m able to be a sponge, I can see and do it all. I have the great opportunity to learn about a city from a mature perspective with an open mind.
“To become familiar with the spaces that people occupy is to learn something important about their lives, even before meeting them personally” (Slimbach). Like Slimbach, this is my task: to become familiar with various spaces, the nooks and crannies of Paris that I will remember long after I am gone. My reflection of my experiences thus far had me comparing myself to Dorothy as she went through her own rights of passage, she too was scared and concerned when she first arrived in Oz, and great as everything seemed, she was still a bit apprehensive, even as she made friends along the way, she still had reservations from time to time. That being said, she had her communitas and was still able confront her own trials and challenges. This is my next objective, to emerge an independent whilst still having a healthy communitas with me.