Reading the introduction to Becoming World Wise written by Richard Slimbach, made me seriously realize how many aspirations I have for my experience abroad. Although I know it is wise to keep all the high expectations and hopes at bay, I can’t help but wish for my travels to be filled with meaningful learning and intercultural bonds. Much like how a goal of meditation is to simply allow occurring thoughts to exist but not to get drawn into them is how i am coping with all the thoughts flying through my head about my semester in Sevilla. Underlying everything I feel calm because I’ve only just begun to see the horizon of my approaching experience abroad. It’ll probably really hit me when i step onto the plane. Over the summer I have heard countless stories from friends and relatives about the fun I will have in Spain. most times i get way ahead of myself and imagine what i would be like. But in my grounding analysis it’s totally unrealistic to achieve solidarity seamlessly and quickly. I will have to put some serious work to get my Spanish speaking skills on par and adjusting to living in a new country. Well I guess I’m getting ahead of myself again… I am a planner by nature and some things just can’t be held back!
Slimbach recalls how an experience abroad is not meant to be one that is one sided, or in other words solely for the traveler himself. This relays an undertone to the current plague of tourism in today’s world. Traveling is meant to be shared with others, not just for enjoyment. In a nutshell traveling abroad to me is to learn and push boundaries with others and myself. Slimbach, akin to my thoughts brings up Paul Fussell’s assertion, “Before the development of tourism travel was conceived to be like study, and its fruits were considered to be the adornment of the mind and formation of the judgement” (Slimbach, 150). It is from here that I have realized to get the most out of an experience such as my upcoming semester abroad, it is imperative to create connections with locals and their culture. I hope to make friends with some locals in Sevilla. The local shop owners may already understand some parts of western culture, as I have heard from a friend who had stayed in Sevilla last semester. She told me of how her friends had become good acquaintances with the owner of a nearby café. They visited daily and felt at home in the shop. As for now, I can only think about how I may create bonds with the people of Sevilla. This scenario of candid interaction might be a great opportunity to understand some of the learning outcomes which Slimbach praises. I suppose only the most profound outcomes occur when western and traditional ideas form together, like Slimbach recalled in the introductory, of his eye opening travels in rural Vietnam. These connections of my world and the Spanish world might create unique memories that could prove priceless.
Also a popular point of emphasis of Slimbach is that one must research their destination before arrival in order to allow the best results of assimilation into a new culture. Thus far for research I have been reading my very long orientation packet for information on Spanish customs. Honestly all I have taken out of it so far has been that in Europe and in Spain particularly it is expected as a man to wear pants. Which warm weather considering is going to be a tough transition for me. I am used to wearing shorts in the summer months in America! I know, I know, of all things, (language integration, not knowing anybody, a foreign city to navigate, eating customs) for me to be worried about pants the most! Well I have you know I’ve bought a couple new pairs of pants from j. crew just for this semester. I’ll keep everybody updated on how I’m doing with my clothing dilemma.
In terms of the rapidly approaching first stage of a Rite of Passage, which is Separation, I am beginning to keep tabs on the roller coaster of emotions I am feeling. Actually writing this first blog is helping get all the random thoughts down. Overall I’ve already have a huge range of emotions on my upcoming semester. I feel sad that I am leaving all my friends and family behind. I feel butterflies of excitement when I think about all of the wonderful experiences to come. I feel nervous when I remember that I haven’t remembered much Spanish yet. But mostly I feel grateful to have this opportunity to experience a semester abroad, something that many don’t have the resource or time to do. On that note, I have promised myself to make the most out of everything that comes my way, to keep an open mind, and to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone.
For my travelogue I have chosen Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Spain by Christ Stewart. Driving Over Lemons is an autobiography of Stewart’s very own Rite of Passage in Spain. Originally hailing from England, Stewart recounts of his assimilation into an Andalucian mountain side community in Spain. The journey starts as he buys an old, in need of repair farm as his permanent residence. Through his experiences working with locals and neighbors, Stewart becomes a part of the community along with his wife and family. Though at first he was labeled as an outsider. Many of the hitches in the road of his passage are well thought out lessons of living in Spain that I could encounter. It is truly special to have such an account at my fingertips.