Separation – an act of mental and physical detachment from a daily routine or a way of life. For avid travelers and nomadic wanderers, separation can be an exciting thing. Those who are comfortable with separation often use their optimism and preparation in order to grow out of their comfort zone. The one thing that separates these brave travelers and ‘home bodies’ is pure optimism and preparation. Having these two key skills helps ease the transition of adapting to a new culture, region, or society. Preparing for transitioning to college or a new job is very similar to prepping for study abroad. As with any new experience, a person needs to research the environment, political parties within the region, and the division of labor while visiting a new country. In the book, Becoming World Wise, Slimbach expresses the need to do extensive research for the host country a student is going to live in. When a student makes a commitment to research, he or she fosters a deeper understanding the culture because “Carrying knowledge conveys a curious and concerned self, one who cares enough about the peoples and places in one’s destination country to invest the time learning about them. This, in itself, may not be enough to distinguish us from the camera-toting and culturally clueless tourists piling in and out of tour buses, but it’s a good start” (Slimbach 2425). Some of the other tips including watching cultural films and ethnographies are also some of Slimbach`s suggestions to full preparation. Overall, without preparation,the idea of separation may be the main component holding us back from successfully moving through the stages of the Rites of Passage.
My personal separation process has been very tumultuous. The last several days I have been appreciating my familiar surroundings because I know that I soon will be heading to Barcelona. My mother has been the main person who has been feeling emotional about my trip abroad. When I first told my mom that I wanted to study abroad she wasn’t too supportive, mostly because of the recent terrorist attacks, anxiety separation from her only child, and the fear of not knowing cultural systems in Europe. However, with long talks and persuasion, she is more accepting of my choice to study abroad. When I first thought about sharing my letter with her, I felt in awe because my mom and I have experienced and shared so many life events things together. The thought of leaving her is a bit daunting to ‘digest’, but I happily shared with her my personal letter. When I shared the letter with her at my aunt`s house in the afternoon, she was happily surprised and emotional. I was ‘her baby all grown up’ as she would say, and our close bond could only grow deeper with the trust she has for me to be a responsible adult to have a successful trip. After sharing her letter, she was very proud of all of my accomplishments. She expects me to be alert, responsible, and not to take advantage of this journey at all. The separation process is a big deal for the both of us, but by reading this letter I have fostered a way to have a healthy separation.
One way to think of having a healthy separation is to be steadfast and independent. The image to the left is a representation of what I think having a healthy separation is. Baby turtles and tortoises are left alone after they hatch just several hours after birth. This makes them totally independent on themselves to enter the ocean to thrive, and only the strongest and those fit for the wild survive. I compare myself to a baby turtle because I have to depend on myself to learn as much as I can before I go abroad so I won’t be tricked or taken advantage of. While I will create my group of communitas and mentors, self- efficiency is most important and a key trait to successfully completing the rite of separation.
Even though I consider myself to be very prepared to enter the study abroad experience, I still feel a huge setback and unprepared. The biggest attribute to this feeling has to do with the language barrier in Spain. Since I do not speak fluent Spanish or Catalan, I feel fearful I may be targeted by pickpocketers and other locals. I have been trying to learn few common phrases and common tricks smugglers might pursue. However, there is so much I need to learn, but I will make the most out of this week to learn Barcelona`s culture. From my perspective, a successful education abroad experience is characterized by knowing and understanding the region, culture, and traditions of Host countries and other countries; as well as knowing social political issues within the region. (Adding learning how to get around in Barcelona). Without these key concepts, I feel as if I am subjected to only stick with students or staff from the program because I am unknowledgeable of this foreign environment. Therefore, learning inside and outside the classroom will be a part of my routine to be a successful study abroad student.
I have accepted the fact that this new journey will have various expected and unexpected challenges. As I have said before, language barriers, a new region, and interaction with locals will be an expected challenge. However, some unexpected challenges would be apartment housing / utility bills, no hot water, inefficient dryers, and managing time efficiently. These are all materialistic things, nevertheless, these are luxuries that I am accustomed too and scared to loose. Yet I will need to use an open and accepting mind to adjust to this new lifestyle. I am very emotional as my life in America is coming to a halt, but I am excited for this new opportunity I am fortunate to have!
(Slimbach, Richard (2012-03-12). Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning (Kindle Locations 2426-2429). Stylus Publishing. Kindle Edition.