I leave in two days. Wow that statement is way too real. I’ve felt all week that my mind is over in Spain, but my body is still here, at home. I have contradicting thoughts on leaving, “It’s finally here! I’m ready to go and spread my wings” and “I don’t want to leave everybody and go to this strange place”. Although I’m definitely more towards the “ready to go!” mentality at the moment, I know over the next days before and during departure I’m going to flip flop. Nevertheless, I’ve written my separation letter to my friends and family. It was indeed really tough to write the letter, as I was doing so, I could really feel the gravity of being separated for the extended time that I’ll be away. But all along I felt a silver lining. I had a positive feeling that it was for my best interests, as I was reminded that everybody supports me in this adventure I am about to embark on. The first step of the Rite of Passage is Separation, and it is a step in which I will knowingly leave my old status of my habits and safe ways behind. In doing so I am making way for my new self to form in a healthy change.
Now that I’ve shared the separation with my family and friends I feel like a stone has been turned. I feel as though I’ve made that important first step towards that first door in my journey, the door of separation. My mom and brother have always been there for me but this time I’m doing this on my own. I’ve been on my own for short trips and at college but this experience abroad will be different. I’ll be across an ocean not able to see them if I needed. But I’ve come to accept this and am ready what is ahead.
For me to consider my semester abroad successful, I expect myself to become fluent in Spanish, to have traveled outside of Spain several times, to feel well versed and able to connect to different cultures, to have made new friends along the journey, and to gain confidence in myself taking on new challenges. It’s a lot to expect of myself, but I know I can do it. To measure my progress and achieving these goals I will use a personal journal to recount my daily experiences as well as this blog as a reflection point. Furthermore, this course’s, QU301, final projects will ultimately help me to see how well I did in having a successful experience abroad. As long as I can follow the guidelines of the Rite of Passage I can’t fail.
On the contrary an unsuccessful semester abroad would be not going out of my comfort zone. More precisely that would be not leaving Spain to explore other European countries, ignoring or bypassing cultural traditions and learning opportunities, and feeling too attached to my habits and comforts from back home. If I were to be the same person in Spain that I am in United States, there would be no rite of passage and no point to go abroad. Ultimately this new change in myself is key to defining my success or failure while being abroad.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
I’ve chosen this quote by Mark Twain because it mirrors what I am aiming for as I separate from everything I know. I want to sail away from the safe harbor with no regrets and no reserves.
Certainly there will be plenty of challenges, unexpected and expected ahead. But I am well prepared to take on anything. I took a life strategies class in high school that instilled willpower in me and has taught me to take on challenges in a positive way. With a confident and optimistic attitude, I can learn from my failures and more importantly strive for success against all that comes my way. Of course, everything is not always going to go my way, but by using the skills I learned I can do anything.
In the introduction to Becoming World Wise by Richard Slimbach, Slimbach speaks of “raising the bar” in one’s quest for a successful experience abroad. Slimbach asserts, “Actually achieving [a successful experience abroad] requires more than simply ‘being there’” (Slimbach, 7). These words have a big meaning to me, as I have begun to mentally prepare for my time abroad, I must remind myself to engage a hundred percent of myself. Another important topic that Slimbach brings to light is at the beginning of chapter five, Carrying Knowledge, in which Slimbach declares that “‘Doing our Homework’ prior to departure enables us” (Slimbach, 127), which enables students to grasp social, political, and cultural knowledge that could prove invaluable in breaking through the cultural barriers. Thus through doing research and learning before departure can effectively aid in me leaving my old self behind. In my mind this knowledge is especially relevant to my language immersion in Spain. If I can maintain a conversation in this language with the locals it should be a great asset to forming an identity in Spain.