Coming into the all day workshop about Rites of Passage I was a bit skeptical. At that time, I was under the impression that I knew what Rites of Passage were all about. I left the workshop pleasantly surprised by the abundance of interesting information that we learned, but also blown away by how wrong I was about Rites of Passage as a whole. I found the workshop to actually calm my nerves about going abroad. Learning about the Rites of Separation and the Rites of Liminality helped me to understand that this process is far more complex than just jumping on a plane and moving to a new country. Becoming a study abroad student within the global community starts far before taking off and ends long after landing. This process is a transformation, all within a liminal bubble. I had never before heard of the term “liminoid,” but now I feel as though I couldn’t define the study abroad experience without it. I found the most comfort in learning about this concept, as becoming someone with no status actually gives us the opportunity to sift though what we want to keep and what we want to let go. I am excited to reform certain aspects of my life through this process. I hope that by the time I start the reincorporation process, I am somewhat changed. Learning about this process as a whole was one of the most eye opening parts of the workshop for me, as it taught me to accept the complexity of this transition and to embrace what changes are to come.
A second concept that really resonated with me was the necessity for a mentor. If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t believe this when I first heard it. I was set on the idea of becoming a more independent person while abroad, especially since I am going abroad alone. Experiencing this transition alone would teach me to face my fears and learn more about myself, I thought. By the end of the workshop, I learned that I could not have been more wrong. Mentors enhance the experience of a liminoid; they do not take away from their growth as an individual. Accepting help from a trusted individual will not take away my ability to face my fears or learn more about myself in any way. It will enhance this experience.
After reading only the Introduction and the fifth chapter of Becoming World Wise, I already know that this book is going to perfectly lie out the study abroad experience for me. One part that I found very interesting was the reference to globalization and the relevance of big chains like McDonalds. Slimbach mentions how “some Europeans may view every Big Mac as an ominous sign of U.S cultural imperialism” (Slimbach, pg 3). I completely understand where this idea comes from, as not only is McDonalds based in America, but also Americans tend to flock to it in other countries. It is much easier to go to get a hamburger from a fast food chain that you know than to go through the effort of dining at a local restaurant. However, experiences such as the latter are what help us to become global individuals. I find that this will be especially important for me as I travel abroad. It needs to always remain in my mind while making decisions that some options may be difficult, but they will ultimately be the most rewarding. To fully separate from my community and enter into liminality, connection with communitas as well the local community is key. Between dining and many other interactions with the locals, full immersion is the most important aspect in my mind to becoming a part of the culture. As Slimbach to brilliantly states, “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 settles assumptions we hold regarding the world-and ourselves” (Slimbach, pg 5).
As previously mentioned, the presence of a mentor is essential to life as a liminal. At home, I have found a mentor in Jo, my Uncle’s girlfriend. Jo was born in London, and has lived in both Spain and the United States throughout her lifetime. Although she will not be present with me during my time in Spain, Jo has been a great mentor to me during my time of separation. “To live knowledgeably and respectively within out destination culture, good intentions are not enough; we also need to absorb enough background knowledge to project an informed, culturally sensitive self” states Slimbach (Slimbach, pg 136). Jo has helped me to become this informed self by teaching me as much as possible about acclimating into Spain. I have learned what seems to be everything about public transit, politics, language and culture. I greatly appreciate everything she has done for me as I begin my transition into the Spanish culture. I know she will guide me during my time abroad even from the United States.
For my travelogue I have chosen to read A Million Steps by Kurt Koontz. It is about a man who walked the 490-mile historic Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route throughout Spain. It grabbed my attention due to the long list of cities he got to travel to, as well as the difference in culture between each. I hope to learn more about the smaller cities in Spain, as well as the wide variety of cultures that span the country.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.