This past week has been insanely hectic for my family. With Christmas last weekend, a trip to New York City on Tuesday, then a visit with my Grandma and cousins in New Jersey on Wednesday, to our 5 hour drive home today to be welcomed by a nor’easter. With all this chaos, I was planning on sharing my letter and writing my post from my hotel room. I was not looking forward to that but life happens and I was prepared to make the most of it. However, our trip got cut short by the storm which meant I no longer had to do this in a hotel! Being snowed in together seemed like the perfect time to share my rites of separation letter with my family. I did not plan it to be this way but it could not have worked out better. Being snowed in together is something we are used, to having lived in our house for 18 years now. I am glad I was able to do it here, at home, instead of having to do it in the hotel because it would not have been the same. Home is a place where we all feel comfortable, safe, and loved. This is the exact environment I wanted when I shared my letter.
Before gathering my parents and my sister, I did not know how to feel. I wasn’t really nervous or scared. It just felt like something I had to check off my list of things to do before I leave. Afterwards, I did not feel that way. I am glad we sat down and talked about it rather than rushing through my to-do list. My parents understood what I was trying to get across. To help explain the process of separation I read my family a quote that has stuck with me ever since the workshop. “In order to make fair and illuminating comparisons between cultures, we must temporarily suspend our largely inherited values and beliefs without flaunting or renouncing them… we must be able to think new and old thoughts, to experience new and old emotions… at a minimum, that we will have learned to adjust our own behavior so it doesn’t unsettle, confuse, or offend others” (Slimbach 16). During our discussion, my mom mentioned something about me developing into a better citizen of the world. Hearing my mom say this made a light-bulb go off in my head. I had not told my mom that in our workshop, we talked about being better citizens of the world. With her saying that to me, I really felt like my work for this course thus far and my preparations to leave were finally all coming together.
As I said my goodbyes to my family and friends over the past week, I have felt more and more prepared to separate from everything that is familiar to me. Parts of me were sad, but then I realized that I have the biggest support system and although they won’t physically be in Italy with me, I know they are always with me wherever I go.
I know a lot of people measure an abroad experience by how many countries they went to or how many extravagant excursions they went on. However, that is not how I will define the success of my abroad experience. If you were to ask my family, I think they would define a successfully abroad experience as just me surviving. But I think I am capable of more than just surviving. I want to discover something new about myself, however small it may be. I want to prove just how strong and independent I can be. Along with goals of self improvement, I hope to learn about different cultures and ways of living, and gain new perspectives of the world. As long as I try to accomplish these things, I will be happy and consider my abroad experience a success. I would consider it unsuccessful if I were to become stuck in my ways. I don’t foresee this happening though.
However, I can’t see into the future. I may encounter some challenges, like language barriers and different lifestyles, that are expected. I may also encounter some challenges that I cannot foresee and that is OK. I am prepared to expect the unexpected and just go with it. You can’t plan life, it just happens. I will do my best to be the most prepared as one can be, but the rest is not up to me. With my health and safety above all else, I plan to go into every situation with an open minded and an open heart.
For Christmas, I made my Mom, Dad, and sister their own little box. I painted each box their favorite color with their name on the top. Inside, I filled the boxes with letters for that person and pictures of us. In a sense, creating these boxes helped me leave a piece of myself at home while leaving other parts of me open for my new experiences. Below are pictures of their boxes.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.