Initially, leading up to my separation from New Zealand I was nervous. I am not always the best at coping with change and it was difficult for me to imagine not waking up in the city I had found a home in for the past five moths. However, much to my surprise I was able to complete a smooth transition while saying goodbye (for now) to my new home. I attribute much of this to the concepts learnt throughout QU301, specifically through the experience and practice of ABC reflection. Throughout the semester ABC reflection has taught me to recognize and welcome change, as a result when I said goodbye to Dunedin and turned towards home I was able to recognize the affect the past five moths has had on my opinions, world view, and response to stressful situations (particularly moments of change).
In contrast to my separation from Dunedin being smooth as possible, my reincorporation has felt jagged and sharp. This is not to say I did not rejoice in the comforts of home, I was eager to reach my bed, my dog, and my family. However, there were moments where I would look around my own home and all of a sudden feel as though I has time traveled. I could physically feel how much I had changed and how much everything I knew in the US had not. February 7th (the day I left) now felt like a lifetime ago, and in a way it was. The time in my life I was living then is far different to the time I am personally living in now. I have arguably learned more about the world and myself in the past few moths than I have my entire college career and as a result I feel as though I am neither here nor there, once again in a liminal phase.
In order to describe the changes I have gone through during my study abroad experience to my family and friends, specifically my parents, I decided to reflect and focus on the major life lessons I learned throughout my time in New Zealand. Before I knew it I had a page full of lessons in my letter draft. However, by far the most important one to me, and the one I decided to discuss with my family was my newfound ability to worry and stress less. Before studying abroad I worried constantly, about school, friends, family, about almost anything. However, New Zealand taught me to not sweat the small stuff, everything eventually works out and stressing about a problem can often make it worse.
At the end of Slimbachs Chapter 8: The Journey Home he discusses the challenging task of bringing these lessons leaned home in order to create new habits. A fear of mine is that once school begins my new approach to stress will revert back to what it was previously. However, in order to carry my experience over I must learn to create a new habit. I believe the best way to do this is through the support and guidance of the people around me. During my conversation with my parents they expressed how proud they were of my accomplishments and how they were willing to support my new ideas, particularly this new approach to stress. By talking about my fear of reverting back to my old stressful ways I am already creating an environment where a new habit can form, and a new community mindset to support these changes.
I believe my conversation with my family not only benefited my experience, but also theirs. I left feeling as though they have a better understanding of the changes this journey has encouraged. I ended the conversation with a quote from Becoming World Wise I feel encompasses the emotions of study abroad perfectly;
“while it’s true that the initial decision to uproot is ours, soon after, much of our life abroad happens under out feet, and without our permission. Cultural quakes happen. Our foundations suddenly shift, and nothing – not family, not friends, not language, not customs – seems fixed anymore” (Slimbach, 156)
This quote explains how study abroad truly changes everything, and it was at this moment that I could see the light bulb go off in my parents’ head, they now understood as much as they could.