In Becoming World Wise, Slimbach states: “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” (pg 54). I believe that this quote perfectly sums up my abroad experience here in Barcelona. It took time for me, but I feel as though I have come to connect with both the world around me and the world within me. This discovery took a great deal of time and effort for me, especially because I did not search for these two worlds simultaneously. Upon my arrival in Spain, I immediately neglected my world within in order to focus on my new surroundings. I did everything I could to understand and partake in Catalan culture. Since day one, I have made an effort to speak only in Spanish, eat only at local restaurants, walk the long way home, and work my way farther from the touristy areas. This has allowed me to become more comfortable with my surroundings. Although my American roots are evident just by my hair color and attire, I feel that those I interact with often have accepted me as a local, not a tourist. I vividly remember my professor Toni saying to us that “if you put in the effort and want to be a Catalan, then we will see you as a Catalan.” This transition from tourist to accepted local took a long time, but I believe that it gave me a nice push into the process of finding this new world within. I have always experienced self-doubt, so when I arrived in this new country surrounded by people I didn’t know, I began to lose sight of how important being an individual is. As perfectly stated by Slimbach, “it doesn’t take much, they say, for casualness to turn to self-containment, curiosity to conservatism, and a sense of world discovery to intellectual timidity” (pg 41). The process of assimilating to Catalan culture gave me a push to remove myself from this shell, because I had to get out and learn to be comfortable being alone. It was evident fairly quickly that I wasn’t going to assimilate to the culture or find this inner world by sticking with a big group of students. These few months have really taught me to become comfortable in my own skin, and I couldn’t be happier about that. “The upshot is this: To change the world requires that we change our consciousness, the stories we live by” (pg 44).
I feel as though this experience has made me a much greater global citizen. For instance, I understand and appreciate the many cultures that surround me more than I could have ever imagined before. I have learned that although different, each culture has something to contribute to this world. This heightened awareness for my surroundings is something that I am very grateful to the study abroad experience for. Separating from this world is going to be incredibly difficult, however I plan to do everything I can to make this transition as easy as possible. Tomorrow, my friends and I will be going out to lunch where we first met in January. I think this is the perfect way of coming full circle. It will be an emotional goodbye, but it doesn’t mean that it’s goodbye forever.
Mark Twain’s famous quote “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” perfectly sums up my experience abroad. I have learned to embrace every obstacle that has been thrown my way by becoming comfortable with the fact that nothing will ever be perfect. In the midst of these imperfections have been some of the greatest memories.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.