There is a difference between seeing the world and experiencing the world. Anyone can travel, to see the world and take in the real-life versions of iconic postcards and national geographic covers. Yet in order to experience the world, one must travel with purpose. Slimbach states, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within.” (54) With global learning, we discover that not only is Uluru truly breathtaking in person, but it also has a story. It remains a spiritual place for the indigenous people of the area, and represents many of the beliefs that are integral to their culture. You cannot see this from standing in front of the monstrosity of a rock. Instead, one has to seek the information behind it—the history of the area and its people, and their cultural practices. This is the world within—the world you cannot see from a distance, but rather must experience.
Global learning has certainly given me this opportunity to experience the world within. From sleeping in a canvas bag under the desert sky to a broken down van in a New Zealand parking lot, my accommodations have been far from five-star. Yet this has allowed me to experience things in a unique way. I have fallen asleep to wild dingoes howling much too close for comfort, and brushed my teeth alongside a local homeless woman. After all this, and the experiences in between, I can honestly say I will never look at the world the same again. It was once so much easier to judge other cultures based on their outward appearance, and the fact that they were different from my own culture. Differences make us uncomfortable, and we often respond with judgment. Global education has proven to me that this awkwardness provides an amazing opportunity for education. As Slimbach reasons, “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 of who we’re not” (54). The awareness I have gained from exposure to different cultures and people has helped me to realize who I am, and made me a more respectful and productive member of my global community.
Reflecting on the person I was when I stepped on that plane on August 29th, I am amazed by how much has changed. It is not a change that is easily put into words, but rather a feeling. I have become much more independent, and am much more comfortable with asking questions and embracing differences. I have become a little more laid back (which was much needed by my type-a personality), in an adaptation to my environment here in Australia. This more relaxed Casey is certainly better fit to be a member of the global community (trust me on this one).
Saying goodbye to this little piece of heaven and the friends I have made here is going to be one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I have never felt so at home somewhere in such a short period of time, and I know I will be returning to visit many times in the future. I plan on saying my more meaningful goodbyes one at a time over the next week. When we all transfer to our respective planes in LAX next Sunday, things will certainly be hectic. So as we sit down to one last coffee date or group dinner, I plan on thanking each person for the vital role they have played in my study abroad experience. I plan on thanking this beautiful city for accepting me with open arms, and returning me to the United States safely, with a scrapbook full of pictures and a heart full of desire to learn as much about my global community as possible.
This morning, I took my first final. This marked my completion of two out of five classes this semester, and I have never been so sad to see a semester end. I am savoring every last moment with last minute explorations and spur-of-the-moment decisions (bungee jumping being the most exhilarating of them all). I know that reincorporation is going to be extremely difficult, as I have adjusted to independent living and the freedom that comes with being treated like an “adult”. I have also adjusted to tropical weather, and will be asking my parents to bring me a snowsuit when I touch down in Boston, along with a box of tissues. F. Scott Fitzgerald sums up my emotions pretty well: “It’s a funny thing coming home. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.” I know that I am going to have to work to find my place in a spot that was once my home for twenty straight years. I am excited to see how the new me will fit into this environment, and how different it will seem through the filter of the past 4 months’ experiences.