As I prepare to go abroad my parents have been extremely supportive in helping me organize both physically and mentally for this experience. There is no one else in the world that knows me better than the two of them. Without even the smallest discussion they seem to already understand the importance of healthy separation. They know that keeping their distance at times is the best way for me to get the most out of my experience. In fact we have done this kind of separation before but never for such a long period of time. For these reasons my letter and conversation about rites of passage in our living room on February 4th was easy for them to understand. They know that this change is not going to be easy for me and they recognize that in order to make this transition possible I will need to separate myself from my American habits. I was able to explain to them that only through healthy separation will I be able to embrace and fully enjoy the new culture I am entering. In the end they agreed to help me with a healthy separation by allowing me the freedom to explore and travel on my own with the understanding that frequent contact may not be possible all of the time.
My conversation with my parents was almost effortless because I was never concerned about their ability to support my rite of passage. However, I am concerned about my best friends ability to allow our temporary separation to occur in a health way. For the purposes of this blog and to keep her identity her own I will refer to her as Amelia. Amelia and I meet at Quinnipiac last year through a mutual friend and have been almost inseparable ever since. We just seem to get each other in the way only true best friends can. We tell each other everything, spend almost every weekend together, and I cannot remember a day since our friendship began that we did not communicate in some way. Although I have been mentally and physically preparing myself for my own healthy separation, Amelia has not been able to prepare her self for the upcoming change. She is very stubborn and refuses to face the fact that my departure is Monday!
Prior to my conversation with her my initial concern was that despite my efforts to separate in a healthy way Amelia would become a trickster and want to keep me in my old status, preventing a true liminal phase. To me this would be the mark of an unsuccessful abroad experience.
Since Amelia is in Connecticut and I am in Massachusetts I decided to facetime her to talk to her about my letter and rites of separation on Thursday night prior to my departure. I went into the conversation worried about her reaction. Would she be upset by my proposal to limit our communication? Or would she be excited and happy for me?
In the end everything worked out for the best and she understood that being on the other side of the world would limit our communication. I felt relived, and the best part was that I had the tools to communicate the specific reasons a temporary separation had to occur. What I believe helped us come to an understanding was when I read her the quote I choose in my letter. I read, “’No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until [s]he comes home and rests h[er] head on h[er] old, familiar pillow” (Miriam Beard). I then further elaborated by talking explaining what we have been learning, specifically the fact that without a full separation from life at home there is no old familiar pillow to return to. So although it may be challenging, Amelia agreed that practicing a health separation is going to be the best option this semester.
To me a successful study abroad experience will begin through healthy separation but be accomplished the moment I fill my cameras 128 GB memory chip with hundreds of memories. This may be a little ridiculous considering that that is over 8,000 photos. However, taking that many pictures would mean that I truly got the most out of my study abroad experience. The pictures will represent my heightened awareness in the liminal phase by truly taking in all the sights of my newfound country and identity. Not only will they serve as reminders of my memories, but also a physical timeline as a transform from my old to new status. I cannot wait to get there and take as many photos as possible!
Although I have been going through all the key components of a healthy separation, there are always things that can go wrong. “Expect the unexpected,” a quote straight out of one of my favorite reality shows Big Brother. The host, Julie Chen, says this almost every episode, yet every time there is a twist, the contestants freak out, by either running around the house in fear or make a foolish moves in the game. (I’d never thought I would be able to connect the game of Big Brother to an academic notion but here it goes.) I believe that the best tool I can bring to help me handle the unexpected is learning from the constant “freak-outs” on Big Brother. Often when something goes wrong our initial intention is to “freak-out.” However, as the contestants prove almost every season, this is not the best way to handle a twist. In order to be successful in the unexpected I plan to utilize the skills in the ABC model. Rather than freaking out, the best thing to do will be to calm my emotions, examine the positive actions that can be made, and thinking in a creative way to solve the problem at hand. Although ones initial reaction is panic, I believe I will be able to use the tools I have learned during the separation phase to tackle upcoming challenges.
Lastly, the picture I chose to represent my journey to date is a transformation photo from me this fall at Quinnipiac to me on the afternoon of February 4, 2016. To me this experience so far has been all about change and preparing for change. In order to do so I decided to take matters into my own hands and cut five inches of my hair. Typically I am very resistant to change. However, through this experience I am learning to be more flexible and to let things go with ease rather than stress. This was something that I learned quickly while packing. It is simply not possible for me to bring all the comforts of home with me to New Zealand. In the introduction to Becoming World Wise Slimback teaches us that bringing our own culture to another one is not the proper way to begin an abroad experience. As a result, I decided that a physical change of appearance was necessary to kick start my abroad transformation! As I prepare to set out I am feeling physically mentally prepared for further transformations!