In the pre-abroad part of studying abroad the most important decision to make is of course the destination. Students have a multitude of reasons for choosing the locations of their temporary homes. For me, a very important part was choosing a culture that I felt like I wanted to integrate myself into and adapt myself to fit into. The most important part of doing this is learning how to transition from the “mass tourist” to a “mindful traveler” and potentially even a community member. Even as the weather begins to cool down, there are tourists who mob the streets. I feel very separated from these people as if I have deemed myself a local, although I’m fairly certain locals don’t see me as a local. I still get offered paintings off the street and people keep shoving selfie sticks in my face calling me Lady GaGa (which I still don’t quite understand). Regardless of how locals view me, I am not part of the mass tourist group in Italy- taking pictures of the Duomo, actually using selfie sticks and invading the middle of the streets ignorant of the fact that Florence is a home to many people who are just trying to get to work every day, not just a place for vacation. Being a mass tourist can best be categorized as someone merely looking for another passport stamp.
The term carefree drifter describes someone whose idea of successful traveling is performing everything one does at home, in a new place, “to do things – including travel-related things- on automatic pilot, largely oblivious to the movements themselves and how they impact the world around us” (Slimbach, 74). Slimbach continues to discuss how being “mindful” largely requires total engagement and commitment to becoming mindful in everyday life and how that compares to being mindful in life abroad. Staying on autopilot helps many people (especially those who travel abroad for long periods of time) to “stay ‘on course.’” While this may be helpful to study abroad students at first, it will be detrimental to the changing process and could even prohibit a student from separating mentally despite the amount of time one is abroad.
There are different distinctions of being a mindful traveler such as having economic, cultural, social, ecological, and spiritual mindfulness and this of course looks different depending on the location. I found difficulty becoming mindful of these particular distinctions because many relate to current events, which I don’t particularly keep up on in The United States and much less in Italy. Being aware of these events could largely increase my ability to adapt to life here in Florence. This would create many great topics to have in mind to strike up conversations with locals, which I think is the best way to enrich my study abroad experience. Midterms are in two weeks, which means my time here is almost halfway done and to be honest I feel behind, I haven’t really made solid friendships aside from other QU students and I haven’t met locals. It’s harder than it sounds- people are busy, and similar to the US it’s not necessarily common to badger strangers asking questions about life in Italy, personal questions or even inquiring about current events. However, this could greatly enrich my journey and I have started to feel like time is running out. It no longer feels like just yesterday I was reading goodbye letters friends had written me in the airport, now that’s a distant memory. I look ahead and have so much to look forward to, after midterms will be a new beginning but then I will truly be racing the clock.
Changing the definition of a global traveler will guide me to becoming more proactive about my cultural learning experience in my time left here. Being part of a global community can be summed up on a simple level- that we are all human. After living in Italy for a fifty-one days my more complex definition would be decreasing the differences between myself and another person around me. Not necessarily to become exactly like everyone in the host culture but to gain a complete understanding for the differences between the home and host culture.
The picture I chose to include was from this past weekend. I ventured through Oktoberfest in Müchen. The first day many of my friends from Quinnipiac chose to go on a bike tour while I didn’t. I shopped for a dirndl and made my way to the festival on my own for the first part of the day and managed to make some friends from Marist College in New York. Later in the day I was able to meet up with my group and I was able to enjoy the festival more thoroughly. The next day I embarked on a tour of the Neuschwanstein Castle while my friends went to the festival. This photo is of the castle from a bridge I worked very hard to reach.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, Va: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.