Separation is a difficult thing, one in which I have recently found myself continuously avoiding. When you consider novels, movies, and personal life experiences, the goodbyes are always prolonged and filled with emotional outbursts. For that reason, the topic of “saying goodbye” has been one in which I have successfully been tiptoeing around with my boyfriend of three and a half years. Because of that, I have decided to share this separation letter with him, in order to attempt to find the right words to properly separate in a healthy way. I have chosen to share this letter at my house the Wednesday prior to my departure.
A healthy separation from what is familiar and comfortable allows for growth and knowledge in future circumstances. The following Slimbach quote masterly illustrates this concept, “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” (2010, p.5). One may say that man is foolish: living his life with the assumptions that all others face the same battles, enjoys the same celebrations, and discovers the same beauties. However, this thought process is far from correct. By properly separating from one’s familiar surroundings and loved ones, he or she is allowing their eyes to be opened, without the fog from their hindsight view.
Before giving my separation letter to my boyfriend, Danny, I grew nervous thinking if what I had written gave justice to my thoughts and anxious of what his reaction would be. I wanted to be sure that I properly explained that study abroad is in fact a life transition, and that separation is a crucial first step in this process. Danny has never traveled outside of the United States before, so I was unsure if he would be able to see this experience through my eyes. However, after I gave him the letter, I was shocked to notice that I felt relieved, and so was he. I have been putting so much effort into avoiding the topic of separating from the person who has made me feel the most comfortable and whole for over three years, that finally talking about it took a weight off both of our shoulders. He was genuinely happy for me when seeing how much I can get out of this study abroad experience. Because of this, Danny wanted to know what he could do to help me achieve my goals and properly undergo this life transition. Of course, I would be lying if I said actually executing this healthy separation will be easy, but knowing that I have his support throughout this transition gives me a much needed boost of confidence. After all, having both my host country and my home community recognize my upcoming passage is an important phase of this particular life transition.
After all is said and done, I feel prepared to participate fully in this education abroad experience in Rome, Italy. Although I have yet to start packing with only four days left to do so, I will not know where or whom I am living with until I arrive on site, and I do not know what at all to expect, I am confident that I am mentally prepared to successfully begin this new life transition, or, rite of passage. Before this assignment of writing and giving a separation letter to a meaningful person, I did feel as though not wanting to fully let go of the security of my boyfriend would hold me back from separating in a healthy way. Being that we are constantly connected at home and school through text messaging, phone calls, FaceTime, and physically seeing each other, I was unsure if I would be able to unplug for a while to fully appreciate and experience my host country. With that being said, after the separation letter assignment, I no longer feel as though anything specific will hold me back from separating in a healthy way.
Personally, a successful education abroad experience involves several components. First and foremost, I decided to study abroad so I could improve my Italian language skills, which I once spoke much better as a child. Being that I come from a first generation Italian family, coming back speaking the Italian language will definitely categorize this experience as a success for both my family and I. Second, I wish to immerse myself in the culture by speaking with locals, visiting non-tourist attractions, and practicing local rituals. Lastly, I hope that I will successfully go through this life transition, in which we have been discussing since April. Study abroad is a once in a lifetime experience, so I hope that I can do it justice and come back marking it off as a “success”. An unsuccessful study abroad experience is simple: living life as I would here in the United States. The point of study abroad is to try new things, meet new people, speak a new language, and come back a changed and more knowledgeable individual. With the help of my personal goals and the content of this course, I am optimistic of the outcome of this study abroad experience.
Challenges are inevitable; they come in all shapes, ways, and forms. Regardless of the uncertainty or difficulty of challenges, they push one to do or to be better. Due to this improvement in character, I am naturally prepared and willing to expect and accept the unexpected. I plan to have a positive attitude, remain easy-going, will not get easily discouraged, and will stay calm. With a combination of these traits, I am sure that I can face any challenge with a smile on my face and an open mind. I am not only ready, but I am excited and looking forward to submerging myself in the diversity of my new surroundings, lifestyle, and friendships. I will not take this opportunity for granted as I am become eager and committed to begin my rite of passage.
This picture, although may appear silly, is a great depiction of my journey to date. This illustration portrays my emotions and thoughts in the sense that I am finally ready to face my last step before my departure. I have been putting off packing for study abroad, avoiding the fact that separation from the known is quickly approaching. However, I am now prepared to take action and complete this final step leading up to my departure. Before I know it, I will be wide-eyed and taking off for my life-changing journey.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning (Stylus Publishing, LLC., 2010).