I’ve always considered myself a curious person filled with wanderlust, searching to explore the world and its endless possibilities of growth and transformation. For the longest time I simply thought of myself as lost, unknowing of who I really am and who I want to be. It wasn’t until the Rite of Passage workshop did I learned that I am not lost, I am a Liminoid in the constant state of Liminality. It is because of this state, this desire to explore and transform that I wanted to go abroad. In college, a place where you are supposed to learn and grow, I found myself not growing but instead simply going through the motions and conforming to those around me, and it scared me. I needed to break free of the mold, “To be thus liberated from the constraints of ignorance and myopia” (Simbach, pg.5).
In Richard Simbach’s Becoming World Wise, he perfectly depicts my purpose and reasoning for going abroad, he states “One of the great joys of educational travel, in whatever form, is to experience familiar things within an unfamiliar context. The very act of moving from one place to another helps create a space where we can bump up against strangeness and reexamine some of the settled assumptions we hold regarding the world— and ourselves.” Many people partake in academic study abroad with the intent “to learn another culture, another language and another set of disciplinary perspectives,” which don’t get me wrong is a great reason to go abroad, and is in fact part of the reason why I myself am going abroad, yet I chose to go on this exploration for a more selfish reason (Simbach, pg.6). I choose to go abroad, yes to learn about the world around me and those within it, but primarily to learn more about who I really am and what makes me that way. I find that the best way to truly see who a person really is is to see how they react under pressure and in a new situation, completely out of their comfort zone. I am going abroad with a completely open mind-set to absorb as much of the culture and knowledge as I can and to observe how I react and how I change as a result of this new experience.
Although I intend to go abroad with an open-mind and an open-heart, I don’t want to go with an ignorant mind. Simbach addresses many issues and risks that are associated with traveling to another country and not attempting to acclimate to their culture. If you do not take the time to learn about the history and the culture of the land you are visiting then you are simply closing yourself off to the world around you, making your attempt at exploring the world pointless. In Simbach’s traveling guide, Becoming World Wise he offers five methods of research one should take before traveling abroad, which are to:
- Cultivate relationships with cultural group members
- Contact experts of the host society
- Read model ethnographies
- View select films and videos
- Conduct electronic searches
In an attempt to not “dispel the stereotype of the clueless and self-absorbed “Ugly American,” I decided to use these methods and do as much research on Ireland as I could (Simbach, pg 127). First, I got in contact with as many of my family members as I could in Ireland and who have gone to Ireland, as a means to learn the do’s and don’ts of society. One of the primary “don’ts” I learned is to simply avoid talking about politics, especially conversations revolving around Trump. A “do” that I learned is to always bring some sort of gift with you whenever invited to someone’s home. Also, in an attempt to not appear ignorant and to show the natives that I truly do wish to learn their culture and to not impose mine on theirs, I gathered research on their: history, economy, politics, geography, arts, sports, education and language. I even attempted to learn basic Gaelic phrases such as “hello” and “thank you” by watching many YouTube videos on pronunciation. My goal is to gather as much knowledge and memories as I can, to bring them back with me to America as a means to motivate myself to continue to break the mold, while also inspiring those around me at school to break the mold and explore the world and themselves.
The travelogue that stood out to me the most, that I chose to read on my journey, is The Creaky Traveler in Ireland: A journey for the mobile but not the Agile. This travelogue resonated the most with me because it seemed the most genuine. It doesn’t aim to tell you only the best parts of Ireland and lecture you on how to best travel. Instead he takes a witty and charming approach to the good and the bad of Ireland, in a story like-way, similar to the personalities of the native Irish folk that I love so much.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010.Print.
Rovetch, Warren. The Creaky Traveler in Ireland: Clare, Kerry, and West Cork: A Journey for the Mobile but Not Agile. Boulder, CO: Sentient Publications, 2006. Print.