The term “globalization” has been one of those very loosely defined terms that is typically overheard in history and business lectures. My field of study does not pertain to these two subjects as much, so I have always been curious as to what globalization really means. Despite my lack of prior knowledge, I have come to understand what globalization means not only for myself as a student abroad, but also for the global community as a whole.
In Kevin Robins’s chapter titled “Encountering Globalization,” he not only defines this term, but he also analyzes its many dimensions and how specific groups of people in these dimensions are influenced by globalization’s mobility. This idea that globalization is a type of global movement is something that intrigued me as I read Robins’s chapter: “With mobility, comes encounter” (Robins 240). The only way in which the globalization movement can be encountered is by experiential learning. This learning method is the foundation of studying abroad. We separate from our own realities back at home to gain new wisdom and a new perspective of the world, and this can only be achieved by immersing ourselves in new experiences during our stay in our host country. After learning about the three different dimensions of globalization, I have discovered how past workshop modules and my own experiences abroad have allowed me to both prepare for and encounter globalization.
One of the key lessons that we were taught during our weekend workshops for this course was about the three phases of a Rite of Passage, especially as we reflect upon our study abroad experience through this lens. The three phases are separation, liminality, and reincorporation. The first dimension of globalization that Robins explains to his readers reflects what occurs as the individual progresses from the separation phase into the liminality phase. Robins writes, “One very powerful dimension of global cultural change has been[…]to dissolve the frontiers and divisions between different cultures” (Robins 242). As students and travelers abroad, we must abandon and look beyond the assumptions and stereotypes we hold about particular cultures so we can diminish the barriers and embrace cultural differences instead of shunning them. The second dimension that Robins outlines for his readers relates to one’s experience in the liminality phase: “A second dimension of cultural globalization[…]is that which promotes cultural encounter and interaction” (Robins 242). The only way we can make global change and promote the common good is by educating ourselves about other cultures and engaging within them. Studying abroad is one of the best ways to do so. I encountered the first and second dimensions of globalization today on my train ride from Venice to Perugia.
A man in his thirties sat beside me on the train, and he asked me in broken English what time the stop for Perugia would be. After answering his question, we broke into a conversation regarding our travel experiences thus far in Italy, where we were from, and our views of particular lifestyles abroad compared to those of our home countries. The man was from Iran. Because I have grown up in a conservative family, my family members have held specific views of the Middle East, especially given our country’s troubled ties with these countries. However, the flow of the man and I’s interesting conversation about culture and learning new languages allowed me to break away from a restrictive worldview that I have always been surrounded by. The man expressed his appreciation for my friendliness and hospitality, especially in helping him practice his English. By the end of our train ride, the man had improved his English, I knew how to say “Hello,” “Goodbye,” “Bees make honey,” and other phrases in Farsi, one of the native tongues in Iran, and we both made an unlikely friendship by engaging in a multi-cultural dialogue.
The third dimension of cultural globalization that Robins introduces has a more negative connotation to it; it especially parallels to how tricksters like staying too attached to one’s home culture and relying on alcohol and partying to relieve homesickness and culture shock. Robins explains, “The third dimension of cultural globalization[…]concerns developments that apparently involve a rejection or turning away from the turbulent changes associated with global integration[…] These loyalties and attachments seem to go against the grain of globalization” (Robins 244). A traveler abroad must remain open-minded so they can grow from the multicultural, experiential learning that takes place in one’s host country. By doing this, the individual can successfully prepare for the reincorporation phase as they acquire “a new basis for thinking about the relation between cultural convergence and cultural difference” (Robins 245). Although I was homesick in the beginning of my time abroad, I decided to become more involved at the Umbra Institute and in the local Perugia community. This opened many doors, welcomed new friendships, and made me realize that the only way I can have an unforgettable study abroad experience is by forgetting about differences, and building bridges, instead.
This is why I chose this picture and quote to convey my developing awareness of the interactions between globalization and travel. Like Luka, the young African entrepreneur of second-hand clothes trade from Zambia in the film The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy, we need to connect ourselves with other members of our global community in order to recognize how our actions and decisions impact those abroad. As our QU*301 class mentioned in our definition of a global community, it is “a shared living space of interdependent, mindful individuals who are endowed with universal human rights, choosing to act upon them, embrace differences, and work toward common goals.” I hope to continue building bridges between diverse cultures as I travel throughout Italy and beyond its borders. This way, future students can realize that they, too, can keep the positive momentum of globalization going by educating themselves of other cultures while studying abroad.
Robins, Kevin. The Global Transformations Reader: An Introduction to the Globalization Debate.
By David Held and Anthony G. McGrew. 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2003. 239-45.