With now only a little over a week left before I take off and leave what is familiar and enter the uncertain, I am unsure of how exactly I am feeling. The world is an interesting place, something in which is unpredictable and vast. I must be honest, I reached my moments of cold feet in the months leading up to this experience. Fear took over my mind; fear of national threats that occur far too often today, fear of being separated from my loved ones and friends, and fear of preparing for such a monumental time in my life. However, I am happy to say that I overcame this fear and ultimately set my best foot forward ready for what’s to come.
Being that so much has happened over the past few months, the workshops completed for this course seem as if they took place so long ago. However, I recall having an abundance of thoughts and feelings on that early Saturday morning. First, of course, I was tired and quit frankly not too thrilled to be spending an entire day indoors preparing for a course. With a naïve mindset, I was sure I knew everything I needed, as I have previously traveled and had siblings go abroad. Much to my surprise, I was proven wrong from the moment the workshop began. This was when my study abroad experience truly began, as I learned a great deal regarding the personal changes one goes through when overseas, things in which I have never previously thought of during my family travels. An abroad experience is a rite of passage; this goes far beyond the photographs that are taken, the stamps accumulated, and the number of art museums visited. On the other hand, it is embodied by the life transitions in which one undergoes.
The concept of separation is one in which resonated with me because I think that it is a great reflection of how many young adults must feel when traveling abroad. We feel vulnerable when leaving our old status and what is accustomed behind. However, there is also a sense of positivity and excitement, knowing that the doors have opened for new opportunities to arise. I believe that the concept of separation and the vulnerability it comes with is what largely contributed to my sense of fear in the months leading up to my departure. Another concept that I resonated with was the idea of tricksters and communitas. I thought that this concept truly relates beyond the study abroad experience, which is what I really liked about it. In almost every situation one faces, there will always be something in which interferes or complicates one’s transition. However, it is one’s communitas, or friends facing similar challenges, in which help he or she get through these challenges successfully. This concept was somewhat calming, knowing that I will find trusting communitas abroad, just as I have done during my transition here at Quinnipiac University.
When reading the Introduction in Slimbach’s, Becoming World Wise, I was immediately drawn to his reaction to the prominent Western influence in Vietnam. Slimbach writes, “My immediate reaction is to wonder how a big-screen happened to wash up on the unspoiled Vietnamese countryside. Is nothing sacred? If that weren’t enough, I notice that it’s tuned to CNN, broadcasting the daily news—in English!” (2010, p.1). Here Slimbach is practicing the concept of Reflective Practice. By reflecting on his present thoughts and feelings regarding this somewhat shocking and unexpected experience, he is able to grow as a person who is now more aware of how the world works. He is using his affect, or how he feels, and cognition, or how he perceives the situation, in order to change and grow for future references. For instance, he originally thought that Vietnam would be much different from what he knew, disconnected from the commercialized world back home. Not only did they have the same up-to-date technology, however, they also tuned in to the same media buzz that Westerners are constantly infused with. From this reflective experience, Slimbach realized that just because a country, city, or continent may be across the world, doesn’t mean that those individuals are completely different from himself. Western influence is spreading across the world, as technology and travel now allow for it. I believe that I will also go through this shock in my study abroad experience, as one often expects the outside world to be completely different from what he or she is familiar with. However, I am sure that I will find common music, movies, food chains, and pop-culture emerge throughout my host country in Rome, Italy. Another concept I found in Slimbach’s Introduction to Becoming World Wise was the Rite of Separation. Slimbach states, “At its best, global learning takes us away from our usual habitat in order to explore the realities of a wider world and our responses to it” (2010, p. 5). In this sense, the act of separation is both physical and symbolic, as one is leaving behind their home and family but also their old status. As previously discussed, this separation is a positive thing, allowing for new learning experiences and change to occur. This definitely coincides with what I am soon to face; for if one does not properly separate from their old status and familiar surroundings, then he or she will not be able to fully appreciate and grow from the study abroad experience.
The travelogue I have chosen is, When in Rome: A Journal of Life in Vatican City, written by Robert J. Hutchinson. The reason I chose this book was due to the author himself. Coming from a large close-knit Italian family, I found it intriguing that Hutchinson did not make the drastic move from the United States to Rome, Italy on him own; instead he made the move with his wife and three sons. Personally, my interest spiked when wondering how not only Hutchinson dealt with this substantial move, but how his family did. Being that I come from a family of seven—a mom, a dad, a brother, three sisters, and myself—how could I not be inclined to see how this family coped with the transition? Because of this, I knew this was the travelogue for me. I am looking forward to setting forth on this journey, while considering Robert Hutchinson and his family’s experience!
Introduction of Slimbach, R. (2010). Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning.
Hutchinson, Robert J. When in Rome: A Journal of Life in Vatican City. New York: Doubleday, 1998. Print.