The learning outcome for abroad education to provide students with the opportunity to learn about “global connections” and things that link people across the globe is certainly an accurate one to have. I have not spoken with one peer who studied abroad that said they learned the opposite or did not achieve that learning outcome. While studying abroad we do learn so much about the global culture and systems that link us as people across the globe, however, we do also learn about this world within ourselves. Slimbach could not be more spot on when he states, “if we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” (Slimbach 54). I understand that this is from chapter 2 and we were not assigned to read chapter 2 until the end but now I comprehend why. I think it is smart for us to read this chapter towards the end, at least it was for me. If I had read chapter 2 towards the beginning, like reading a book in order, I would not have resonated with this section as much as I had. I would have taken the advice with a grain of salt because I would not have been able to relate to what Slimbach was saying. I would have been absent minded about the information thinking I would not feel the vulnerability Slimbach is talking about. However, I could not have resonated with Slimbach more than when he said:
The psychological stress associated with cross-cultural learning actually carries the power to expose us, heal us, and complete us. Instead of trying to numb the pain, we allow ourselves to feel our weakness and vulnerability… Rather than trying to conquer the worlds we visit or convert them to our way of thinking, we surrender to them. The fact that we are strangers in the land quickens our attention and leaves us wide awake to our thoughts and emotional responses. (Slimbach 55)
The quote is a lot to take in and for some it may not resonate with them like it did with me. While traveling as a global citizen I did not fight against the cultures I was thrown into or claim I hated them if something did not go my way; I surrendered to them. I understand this as a skill that someone must have to experience the world. You cannot expect yourself to like everything or for nothing to go wrong in a land where you are completely vulnerable. You have to have the attitude to surrender yourself to the situation you are in and to force yourself to open your mind to a point where you can at least understand what is going on; there are issues, processes trends or systems that link us across the globe and there is one you can relate to. By remembering such experiences that made me come to this realization I will then carry these connections forward.
Many people believe that you find yourself while you are abroad, and I whole-heartedly agree with that. However, to remember what I just said you also have to keep in mind that just as much as you “find” yourself, you also lose yourself and discover a person within you that you are not. Slimbach puts a good explanation to it when he says, “the sudden vulnerability we experience as we arrive in an unknown place stripped of familiar surroundings, people, and routines renders us acutely aware of who we are, or at least of who we’re not” (Slimbach 54). These mental and emotional displacements cannot be viewed as a burden while traveling though. For me, they were an experience I would never forget and simply a highlight of my time abroad. How can you understand yourself if you’ve never pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone to a point you meet the person you are not and discover your limits?
As my time comes to a close the emotions are all over the place. Creating meaningful closure in this time is very important to me and my roommates, we know that we will never have this time again together. Yes, we can come back to Barcelona but it will never be the way it is right now. That is why, as corny as it is, a quote that expresses my thoughts and feelings at this moment in my experience is, “as one door closes, another door opens.” Its corny, but it fits my thoughts and feelings completely. This time abroad is coming to an end and I know I will never have these moments back again. My roommates and I are each night going to our favorite restaurants, having nights in drinking wine, attending soccer games on Barcelona’s huge holiday (the picture attached), etc. We are preparing to close the door with many monumental memories in order to reincorporate ourselves back home through a new door since we going back having discovered who we are, and more importantly, who we are not. Going home would never be the same and we are aware of that. That is why we can only look at it as a new door after our door abroad closes. Another time of adjustments that we will only have to make the best of like we did for our beginning time abroad. Understanding this and looking at my reincorporation phase back home via the corny quote is very important to me because it is aiding me and making me comfortable for the end of my Rite of Passage process.