It always felt as though study abroad was so far away, but suddenly my departure date is “next” Sunday. I found out my address this week, and the (7) girls I will be living with, and it is all beginning to feel so real.
In reflecting upon the weekend workshop in the Spring, I distinctly remember discussing that in order for a rite of passage to be successful, it must be recognized by both the individual and the community. My family members are so excited for me to make such wonderful memories. As I am the oldest of my generation, and none of my parent’s generation studied abroad, I’m not certain my family really views what this experience will be as a rite of passage. My friends, however, many of whom have either studied abroad recently or know people who have, recognize the transformative ability of the experience ahead of me. They see the ways in which I will be benefited by the independence and culture-shock thrust upon me, and are so happy for me.
In the weekend workshop, we discussed “separation” as being a key step in any rite of passage. For a study abroad experience, it is very obvious that separation will be occurring, from at the very least, one’s home country and accustomed physical surroundings. In the Introduction “Becoming World Wise,” Richard Slimbach discusses how this physical separation can aid the growth process. He says, “The very act of moving from one place to another helps create a space where we can bump up against strangeness and reexamine some of the settled assumptions we hold regarding the world – and ourselves” (Slimbach 5). One of the main themes he focuses on is how strikingly similar we will find foreign places to be. Slimbach makes reference to being suddenly dropped into a shopping mall in any city in the world, and not immediately being able to identify where you were (Slimbach 3). The remarkable irony of finding such similar people in such dissimilar lands is particularly meaningful in the context of our fluid definition of “global community.” Slimbach describes biking through the Vietnamese country side, perhaps expecting to be the first westerner the people have ever seen. He is taken aback to find that the local are all sitting around a big screen TV displaying American networks, in English (Slimbach 1). I think it will be a continually interesting and intellectually stimulating experience to encounter as many similarities as differences in the people I meet during my time abroad.
In accordance with Slimbach’s instructions, I have chosen a travelogue for my journey
through Italy. The book I chose is entitled, “Do As The Romans Do: An American Family’s Italian Odyssey” and it is written by Alan Epstein. He writes from his personal experience of traveling to live in Rome for a time. I thought this travelogue would be most appropriate for me, because he had the experience of staying in the place I will for an extended period of time, rather than just passing through as with others who wrote alternative options. Additionally, in my personal research, I had found that Italy, as a country, is younger than the United States, by about a hundred years. In many ways, it’s regions are described as particularly culturally distinct. I therefore thought it would be best to pick a travelogue specifically focused on the city (and region) I will be living and studying in.