Separation: an action that describes the removal of an object or a being from its normal surroundings. I have always assigned a negative connotation to this word, as it has preceded the start of some of my most difficult moments in my life. Whether it is separation of a loved one as they travel, or separation of a loved one from this earth after their passing, hearing the word usually makes my heart drop half of an inch.
My past history with separation, in turn, did not leave me excited when I read the assignment details for this activity. Instead of dealing with separation, I tend to not think it through, and even to pretend like it doesn’t exist until I do not have to deal with it anymore. Sometimes, I fill the time of the separation with mindless activities, or throw myself into my involvements. Other times, I take the pain produced by the separation and funnel it to be able to emphasize with others around me that are feeling deeper pain. This is what I noted most before I shared my Letter of Separation. I decided to share this with my best friend from home, two days before I left for the Philippines, in her car, which was in my driveway (where I have all of my life talks with my closest friends). I figured that the familiarity of my surroundings would assist in my troubled track record with separation, and that the timing would allow for both of us to digest the separation before I actually left.
The actual sharing of the Letter of Separation was not as difficult as I anticipated it to be. Not only was this a much more planned out separation than any I had previously partaken in, but also it contained an educational depth unique to the experience that added to the ease. Being able to explain the utilization of the separation to enhance both of our overall growth gave the separation more meaning, allowing for an emotionally difficult process to transform into a productive experience.
The quote that I used to help convey abroad opportunities is one from the workshop and from Slimbach’s Becoming World Wise; “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” (164). I selected this to assist in both of our understandings of the educational components of the separation. This quote also describes the synergism between the new and the old, and how ultimate success stems from optimizing the relationship between the two.
At this point, I feel as though I am as ready as I could possibly be for separation of all that is familiar and known. Having departed from the United States for a new country just one week ago, I already feel as though I have separated from everyone outside of my family. This has been a particularly unique experience, however, as I am undergoing multiple separations in a short period of time. Just as I am getting used to my surroundings in the Philippines, I am preparing to leave for yet another country. Last night, I had to separate from my Grandparents, one that was much more difficult because the time that we will reunite is much less known and stable. I think that my nerves truly stem from being away from my parents and brothers for so long, and that these nerves are what stand between my partial and complete mental preparedness. I do not think that these nerves are great enough, however, to taint an otherwise healthy separation.
I think that a successful education abroad experience will be one of significant growth, enhanced awareness to surroundings, increased problem solving, and openness to challenges. An unsuccessful abroad experience would result in shying away from new experiences, turning towards pre-separation means of comfort, and closing oneself off to potential friendships and the new culture. The best means of measuring this success on a personal level will be through weekly reflection and assessment at the end of the semester.
I am ready for and looking forward to the expected and unexpected, and I plan on using my desire for adventure and underlying drive of this trip to push myself into the new and unknown. I also think that the more I keep in mind how lucky I am to partake in this trip, the more I will be open to trying as much as I possibly can. I am looking forward to experiencing the diversity of my surroundings, lifestyle, and friendships, all while keeping in mind the lessons I have learned from that of my past.
This picture is of my brother Stephen and I during my very first day at Quinnipiac. We had just moved all of my belongings in, and we were headed to pick up my QCard in the student center. I was both terrified and excited, more than I had ever been in my entire life. My feelings on this first day parallel those I am currently feeling: nervous to embark on these beginnings, and excited for the new adventures that are on the way.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.