In Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning, Slimbach writes, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” (Slimbach 54). Slimbach is referring to the immense power of international experience to come to a greater understanding of our inner selves. He is challenging each of us to make our abroad experiences not just about seeing the world, but also about personal development. It is not just a physical journey that each of us embarked on nearly four months ago, but a mental, emotional, and even spiritual one as well.
The learning module for this travel log lead me to a thorough reading of the chapter in which Slimbach includes the above quote. Only a few sentences later, he writes “The sudden vulnerability we experience as we arrive in an unknown place stripped of familiar surroundings, people, and routines renders us acutely aware of who we are, or at least who we are not” (Slimbach 54). On my third day in Rome, one of my good friends from home, who took this course last semester, sent me this quote as she stumbled upon it in finishing up her own work. She sent this to me as a sort of condolence, a reassurance that whatever displacement I was feeling was normal, and expected, and also to tell me it could get better. Finding this quote again caused me to reflect on where I was the first time I saw it, versus where I am now. I proudly responded then, that I was actually doing great. I was gaining my bearings, and developing a comfortability in my new surroundings. It is only looking back now, months later, than I can be so much prouder. What I didn’t realize then, was that I was very much displaced. What I realize now – is I was then and have since handled that very well. I slowed my mental process down enough to encounter each obstacle as I came across it, enabling myself to adapt rather easily.
My growth during my time abroad has not just been personal, but also as a member of the global community. In the chapter, Slimbach draws on a quote from Robert Hutchins, the president of the University of Chicago, writing: “Civilization can be saved only by a moral, intellectual, and spiritual revolution. If education can contribute to a moral, intellectual, and spiritual revolution, then it offers a real hope of salvation to suffering humanity everywhere” (Slimbach 68). Slimbach continues, “Our conviction is that global learning can contribute to – and even provide the cutting edge for – that revolution” (Slimbach 68). I believe this revolution is in a generation of globally educated individuals who not only have an understanding of the status of humanity across the globe, but who possess a deep passion to improve the human condition. Personally, I feel as though a fire has been light in me. In my reflection, I have come to the conclusion that I was perhaps indifferent to the problems of the world because of the way they are portrayed in the United States. I have a whole new understanding of what it means for Americans to complain about ‘first world problems.’ We do not live in a perfect society, but still the rest of the world regards the United States as a pinnacle of justice and equality in the modern world. When I think about just how different of a reality people around the globe face, I feel compelled to bite my tongue on my own problems, until those much greater in the world around me are addressed.
As my departure draws near, I find myself being especially reflective of these and other issues. I am determined to leave having proven to myself and my family and friends at home that this experience was not just a four-month vacation. I plan to spend time in the next week rereading my personal journal, to really reflect on the ways I have changed and the things I have learned since being here. I am deeply sadden to leave Rome, a city that has become my home in a way I never imagined possible, and my roommates, who provided friendship and companionship in a space where I knew no one. Just last week, in celebration of the American Thanksgiving, my roommates and I hosted a ‘friendsgiving’ in our apartment. We invited our closest friends in Rome, and as the timing was so close to our departure, the experience served as a ‘last-horrah’ of sorts. We celebrated the life we have built here in Rome, and commiserated our impending departure. While it didn’t make me any happier about leaving, it was a meaningful experience in saying goodbye.
I am overwhelmingly consumed by the following song lyrics as my time in Rome draws to a close: “Our lives are made, In these small hours, These little wonders, These twists and turns of fate, Time falls away, But these small hours, These small hours still remain” (Little Wonders, by Rob Thomas). So much is held in these few days I have left here, and I am determined to get all the meaning and memories out of them that I can.