If I have learned anything through my study abroad experience, it is how quickly time passes and how crucial it is to take moments to recognize this fragile concept. Nothing is permanent, especially my short lived semester overseas, as the time has already come to begin my goodbyes. Regardless of the rapid movement of the ticking on the wall, one must always leave time to process, reflect, and appreciate whatever it is that he or she is undergoing. Nevertheless, the alternative of simply living life by going through the motions or having poor intentions is unfortunately how this slipping time is spent by many.
Richard Slimbach explains this cautionary theory in terms of finding our true self, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” (2010, p. 54). It is evident that traveling abroad removes one from all that is known and comforting. With this increased vulnerability comes room for exploration and realization. Slimbach notes that although one may be tempted with various coping mechanisms to fill the newly founded voids, welcoming this susceptibility will be more worthwhile, “The fact that we are strangers in the land quickens our attention and leaves us wide awake to our thoughts and emotional responses” (2010, p. 55). Throughout my nearly twenty-one years of living, I must admit that study abroad has been the most daunting experience yet, leaving me without any source of familiarity. However, this is what allowed me to grow as a young adult, making me aware of myself, the world, and my active part in it. One does not work without the other, as an understanding of each component is necessary in order to create positive and necessary change. Personally, this phenomenon was easy to comprehend and much more difficult to execute. When traveling, it is already a difficult endeavor to seek moments of stillness, a chance to tackle thoughts and perceptions. When these instances are achieved, it can be tough to determine the balance between thinking too much of yourself and not putting yourself in the context of the land your visiting quite enough. Howbeit, these moments have become my most cherished, as I mark the calendar down to my departure date. While scrolling through pictures, I am pleasantly surprised to notice that I am not simply looking at beautiful landscapes or my friends and I strategically posing in front of monuments. Instead, I am looking at a story, remembering my moments dedicated to reflection and realization prior to or directly after the sound of a click that didn’t just mean time passing, but clarity and growth being captured. Pursuing the world within is therefore essential in learning more about oneself, “Our journey may be filled with much outward movement, but we are mostly traveling inside ourselves, to destinations never quite arrived at when were surrounded by sameness” (2010, p.55). It is then that one can convey these lessons in a grander way as a global citizen.
After welcoming vulnerability and allowing time for reflection and understanding, I have certainly had the opportunity to flourish as a member of the global community. Specifically, I now understand that being a global citizen entails embracing insecurities and self-doubt. Being humble and recognizing the equal importance of other cultures, countries, and concerns, one can learn more about him or her, as well as the world we live in.
As unbelievable as it may be, four months have passed and six days remain on this unforgettable journey. Despite the fact that I may not stay in touch with every friend I have made here, I know I will remain lifelong close friends with some. These are the individuals in which I dread parting from. Because I associate such important moments of reflection and joy with each picture taken while abroad, I plan to choose a special one for each close friend of us together. On the back, I will write a special note, explaining my gratitude for their essential roles in my life transition, the cherished times they were a part of, and my happiness when parting ways, as I know it is not a goodbye but a see you later. I hope that I can demonstrate how thankful I am to each person that has touched my life in these past four hectic and thrilling months. Surprisingly, I find it much more challenging when saying goodbye to beloved locations in this place I have called my home this semester, as I do not know when and if I will get the chance to revisit these specific spots in the future. Needless to say, it will be difficult but allow me the chance to appreciate the influence study abroad has had on me.
Currently, I have several emotions running through my scattered mind. As expected, I am unexplainably excited to return home and be reunited with my family and boyfriend. It feels as though so much has happened in my absence, and I am very excited to learn of their time as I enthusiastically explain mine. With finals up and coming and packing on my to do list, I oddly find my past repeating itself. In August, I postponed packing until the night before my flight, anxious that once I zipped my final bag, there would be nothing left to do besides take off and not look back. Fast forward four months, I find myself in the same dilemma, watching my communitas beginning to pack as I cannot get myself to take my suitcase out from hiding. This has become my home, a place of growth and self-realization. Packing my things away and preparing to leave such an experience behind seems unthinkable, as I still struggle with this looming concept. Ultimately, I am confident that my emotions will assist me with the Reincorporation phase of this Rite of Passage process. This is because being excited to return home but sad to be leaving means that this experience was a significant part of my life. I am not simply running to the airport without thought, but clearly affected by this transition. Because of this, I will be confident when completing my life transition, aware that these months positively impacted my life and my position in the global community.
The quote, “Not all those who wander are lost” by J. R. R. Tolkien, although typical and mainstreamed perfectly expresses my current position at this moment in my experience. This is due to the fact that I truly feel as though I have found myself while abroad. Just as Slimbach seamlessly explained when discussing finding our true self, and I am certain that I have. I am leaving Italy with a better understanding of my strength to overcome the fear of independence and vulnerability, ability to endure obstacles, the potential to create lifelong friends, and the capability to comprehend global issues and the desire to create a change. I am forever thankful to the locals in whom allowed me to be involved in their community this past semester, and I hope to continue to do so in the future. Mi mancherai Italia!
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning (Stylus Publishing, LLC., 2010).