Travel Log 7: “Wise for the World” Part 1. By Andrew Dunbar. Queensland, Australia

The Rwandan Massacre was one of utter inhumanity and cruelty. To be honest I did not know much about this important event before watching Shake Hands with the Devil, but know that I am informed about it I am completely disgusted. Disgusted not only in by the people who committed this heinous crime, but also disgusted at the rest of the world for not acting or not showing any signs of interest at all. During this massacre, almost a million Rwandans were killed, with over a 500,000 of them being raped and the world didn’t even blink. This horrific event occurred due to the deranged psycho Hutu trying to eliminate the Tutsi people.  The cartoon I have perfectly describes how the world treated this massacre, with them being interested for a moment before turing their attention to something of much less importance.

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In the cartoon I have chosen, which was put in the 2005 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a man and a woman are both walking out of a movie theater with the movie titled “Hotel Rwanda”. One thing I noticed under the movie title in this cartoon is that it is rated “PG-13”. This is disgusting but accurate because it exemplifies how the world downplayed the whole situation and did not take it seriously. This shows how the media can modify the news and make it seem less serious or more serious than what it really is depending on how they want the public to react.

The man and the woman are having a conversation about the movie where the man says “I can’t believe the world stood by and did nothing!” to which the woman replied “I can’t either…when do you think the movie “Hotel Sudan” will be released?”. She is referring to the events in Sudan, but it is ironic because she is completely shifting her focus from Rwanda within a matter of seconds after leaving the movie theater, right in the middle of a conversation about how more people should have cared about the Massacre. This shows just how ignorant people are and how blind they can be to world events, only caring about them as a topic of conversation and then forgetting about them all together. It is as if people are aways caught up in the new news, the next big horrible event. But in doing so they quickly forget about a previous event that needs serious attention.

People are constantly looking for something new to talk about, something new to watch a movie on. Most people don’t really care about these horrible events because it is not happening to them. They are in their own comfy corner of the world and don’t really care about what is happening to anyone else, but many just pretend to care for the sake of conversation or sounding smart. I hope to one day live in a world where we realize that if every country were to fight out against aggression and horrible events such as the Rwanda Massacre, then the majority of the world’s problems would be solved very quickly by working together.

Travel Log 15: “There’s No Place Like Home? Rites of Reincorporation” by Ariel Olivieri. Hull, Massachusetts.

Prior to returning to the United States I talked to a few of my friends who hadn’t gone abroad and told them that I may be a little bit different from how they remember me. I told them that New Zealand had changed me in the best ways possible and that I couldn’t wait to share my new self with them. My mom studied abroad when she was younger so she understood what I meant when I said that I felt different and that I felt like I had changed. So she has been extremely supportive with my transition thus far. However, a few of my friends don’t understand and give me weird looks when I say things such as “sweet as”. Also, the laws in New Zealand are different and I am used to the laws there, so to learn new rules all over again has been a bit of a hassle. One major difference is that I felt safe 24/7 in Dunedin. Walking the streets and sitting in public were things I constantly did without the fear of being pick-pocketed or harassed. I am currently sitting in South Station in Boston and I have been on high alert since I sat down. The last adjustment that has been hard for me is that the cars now drive on the right side of the road. I owned a car in New Zealand and I adjusted to those roads quickly. I’m hoping the same will happen here.
When I returned home I had the letter already written and prepared and so I immediately shared the letter with my family and friends over dinner. Each of them were extremely supportive and understanding and have allowed me to begin my transition and reincorporation smoothly thus far. My best friend was in Morocco and I haven’t seen her for 162 days. She also recently moved to Vermont, so although I have only been home for four days I bought a bus ticket and am on my way to Vermont for the week. Although my parents didn’t want me to leave so soon they understand that in order to successfully complete this stage of reincorporation I need to see the people who I miss the most. The quote that I found most helpful in my letter was, “As we know from the study of history, no new system can impose itself upon a previous one without incorporating many of the elements to be found in the latter…” by Margaret Atwood. This quote truly exemplifies how when I was in New Zealand I matured and was molded by my new environment, and now that I have returned home, I am a little bit different, and to successfully adjust back into my environment, I must incorporate what I have learned into my daily life. Most of my friends and family have been very supportive and excited for me since I have been home and it has meant the world to me. They have been making this transition much easier for me.
I will carry my experience forward with me through maintaining an environmentally friendly lifestyle and taking the time to listen and truly care about what each individual has to say. In New Zealand I would always turn off any light that was unnecessary, I would turn off the outlets if they were not being used, I recycled, and I walked as much as I could. Although it is not always possible to turn the outlets off in the US, I have been very good about unplugging things, turning the lights off, and recycling every chance that I get. I also no longer have a car in the US so I have been walking almost every where since I have been home. Also, while I was abroad I had been working really hard on my listening skills and so far it has really paid off. I’m hoping that I can maintain this aspect of my new self because I feel that it will be extremely important in my future.
One aspect of myself that I have been working hard to change is that I am lazy. In New Zealand I masked this trait and by the end I wasn’t lazy at all. However, now that I have returned so has my laziness. I have been keeping myself on a strict schedule so that the laziness does not return, and so far so good, but I know that this trait is still lingering and it is going to take time to finally get rid of it.
A quote that represents my thoughts, feelings, and actions at this time is, “You can decorate absence however you want, but you’re still gonna feel what’s missing,” by Siobhan Vivian. When I left New Zealand I wasn’t just leaving a country, I was leaving a home. I had a family comprised of the most wonderful individuals that I have ever met in my entire life. Some of them from Quinnipiac, some of them from other states, some of them from other countries, and some of them from New Zealand. My kiwi host became my best friend and he was the hardest person to say goodbye to. We will still keep in touch and I have the hope that one day I will be able to see him again. When I got home I ignored everything that I had just left behind and focused solely on seeing my friends and family that I missed. I went out with my friends the day I got home and have been keeping myself as busy as possible to try and cover up the fact that I just left New Zealand. I have been acting as if everything is fine, however I can’t get myself to unpack. I am decorating the absence of this country with activities and friends, but I still feel that it is gone.

Travel Log 15: “There’s No Place Like Home? Rites of Reincorporation” By Kilian Smith. Berlin, Germany.

After four months of incredible experiences in Europe, I am now back in Lake George, New York. Coming off the plane into Newerk airport, I was hit with the high of physically seeing and hugging my parents as well as being in a place where I knew the language and customs again. But now after being home for a week I’ve slowly been seeing that I am not the person I used to be. I am coming down from the high of returning home and finding that being immersed in a culture so different from what I was previously used to has allowed me to form a new psyche on the way I want to live my life. Reintegrating myself into the United States culture has come with a fair share of obstacles. I find that I am frequently disappointed by some of the practices that separate Americans from other cultures. The first thing that frustrates me is how fake Americans are with one another. I feel that Americans lack the geniality that Europeans do with acquaintances. They may not go out of their way to meet and speak with someone, but the people that they do they treat with a great deal of respect, which consequently makes you feel important. I have also been frustrated with the lack of interest Americans have with current events. Europeans take responsibility in knowing what is happening within and outside their countries and its effects on their lives. Americans live with a blind ignorance to these concepts believing that there will always be someone else to take care of their problems. A great example of this can be seen in todays pressing environmental issues. In Germany, citizens drive small cars, use public transit, and giant electric windmills cover most of the country. I am very conscious of my effects on the environment and I shared a common bond with the German people through this. In America I feel as if I am once again a liminal being trying to integrate myself into a forgien society, except this time the society is one I have know my whole life. It is amazing how just 4 months in another country can change who I am and what I believe in such a durastic way. My parents keep telling me they are so glad I am home but lately I have been wondering where my home truly is.

Upon returning home I drafted a “letter of reincorporation” that I then shared with my family and friends. The letter explained to them what I had experienced, how it had changed me, and how I felt to be back in the United States. It was important for me to get acrossed to them that the experience had changed me in a significant way. I had experienced a totally different side of life and I loved it. I wanted to make it clear that if I did seem upset, disappointed or angry, it was only because I had lived one way for a period of time and was all of a sudden thrown into a completely different way of life. I was surprised at how understanding they were of my plight. Even though they did not experience what I had, they seemed to have a sixth sense that I needed space to think but also the opportunity to talk about what I had seen. My reincorporation to the United States culture was and is very healthy thanks to my friends and family. Margaret Mead described my reincorporation perfectly when she said, “As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.” While I loved Europe there is truly no place like home, and my time abroad made me realize this. My home is where my loved ones are, who have supported and continue to support me in everything I do. I believe that the world is made up of these support groups that are all interconnected through love and friendship, and it is these coherent groups that makeup a healthy community.

In Becoming World Wise Richard Slimbach acknowledges a quote from Aldous Huxley that states, “Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a person does with what happens to him.” Coming home this quote rings true to my ears. I have learned a great deal from my experience and I would even go as far as saying that it was a life transformation for me. I have changed through my study abroad experience in a tremendously positive way, but now I have a responsibility to share what I have learned with my local community. One way in which I plan to retain what I have experienced in Berlin and carry it forward with me into my home community is to wholly reflect on my experience. It is easy or one to fall into old habits and this is something I do not want to happen. Richard Slimbach says that in order to form new habits, one must make a “conscious change in behavior” and you will “begin to dig a new channel into your psyche.” I must curb the habits I practiced before I left for Berlin and practice the habits I learned while in Berlin. Before Berlin I was unmotivated and lazy but now I have a vibrancy for life. Living in such a foreign and exciting place has shown me that life has purpose and for me it is seeing the world. I feel that I can motivate my friends who have lost the hope or purpose in life. It is very easy for ones life to become stagnant and routines but I can show people the beauty in finding yourself. The second way I plan to carry forward what I have learned from my study abroad experience into my home community is to try and make less of an impact on my environment. Germany was so environmentally conscious that it allowed me to define what field I want to pursue. I would like to make a career in alternative energy solutions, this way I can protect my local and global community from the plagues that man has placed upon the earth. This way I can help to preserve the many beautiful cultures and destinations that make up our world.

Travel Log 14: “Global Connections & Rites of Separation” by Kayla Vitas. Sevilla, Spain.

Its crazy to think that my first two weeks abroad were filled with tears and phone calls to my parents saying how difficult the transition was and how unhappy I was. Reflecting back on it now, I realize that I was not branching out enough to the community around me. I was isolating myself to my room and only interacting with the friends that I went abroad with. In Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning, Richard Slimbach states, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within.” (p. 54). When I was able to branch out and connect with different people in the community my outlook and experience abroad drastically took a turn for the better. Receiving an intercambio was the first step in the right direction for me. My intercambio made me feel comfortable talking in Spanish, she showed me around Sevilla and she introduced me to her friends. With only two weeks of meeting with my intercambio I already felt like I knew a lot about the Spanish culture and I felt like I was accepted into the community.

As time went on and I continued to interact with Spanish students and other natives I was able to learn more about myself. I realized that by stepping out of my comfort zone by trying to speak with people even if I was not making sense, I was gaining the confidence that I never thought I had. I was also able to see that making mistakes didn’t hinder me but rather benefited me.

Good-byes have never come easy to me. I always feel like a part of me is being taken away. Instead, I like to say, “its not a goodbye, it’s a see you later.” From previous experience of being in a foreign country and having to leave many amazing places and people, I anticipated that these “see you later’s” were going to hit me like a ton of bricks. And they did. It wasn’t just the people that were hard to leave or just the places, but both. I would never be in the same place again with all the same people. That is what hit me the hardest.

The most difficult thing that I had to leave in Sevilla was the river. As I have mentioned before in many of my travel logs, the Guadalquivir River became my mentor, my best friend and my escape. The river always put me in a good mood whether I was walking over it to get to school, meeting up with friends or just sitting on a random dock and watching the sunset. With only a few more days left in Sevilla, I knew that I would be meeting my friends there to say goodbye but I wanted to take time to myself and really say goodbye to my favorite spot in the world. I took a walk to the river and only planned on staying about an hour because I wanted to make it back home in time for dinner but it was so difficult for me to walk away that I stayed for about three hours. I sat there and reflected on not only all the great memories I had of Sevilla, but also how the river was to connected all these memories. I tried new foods at restaurants that sat along the river, I made new friends at big gatherings that we would have at the river and I gained a new meaning of life when watching the community interact daily at the river.

With only a few days left in Sevilla, I am overwhelmed with so many emotions. I am so happy and thankful that I was able to experience so many places and people in four months but I am also sad to leave behind my new life. People always said that your time abroad goes by very fast but I did not expect it to go by THAT fast! This past week I have eaten at my favorite Spanish restaurants for the last time and I have walked by a few of my favorite places one last time such as the Cathedral, the gardens and Plaza de Espana. When returning home, I know it is going to be a difficult transition. I am certain I will miss everything about my journey but I am going to look back on my first two weeks abroad and remember that it will only get better by what I make of it.

A quote by Robert Louis Stevenson that I think applies to my experience in this point in time is, “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler who is foreign.” This quote stands out to me because in the beginning of my study abroad experience, everything about my host country was foreign to me. However, now, I feel as though I am a major part of the Sevilla community and aspects of the culture are no longer foreign to me.

Travel Log 14: “Global Connections & Rites of Separation” by Ariel Olivieri. Dunedin, New Zealand.

I agree with the statement that, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within,” (Slimbach 54). Prior to embarking on my journey to Aotearoa I was an extremely accepting person. I did not hold any prejudices and valued each individual equally. When I thought of New Zealand I also thought that, compared to other countries including the United States, the people here would also be more accepting of individuals and their differences. I guess I never imagined that there were racial and equality issues here because I had never heard any stories about it. After living here for over four months I now understand that New Zealand is no different then other countries around the world. Maori faced, and still face, discrimination from Europeans and are looked down upon, much like other minorities around the world. In class I learned that Europeans once believed that Maori were biologically “dumb” and were built to farm, not to learn. Shortly after the Europeans arrived here Maori land was confiscated and they were forced to attend separate schools. These schools forced them to learn English and banned their native language. It was only recently that Maori have received the correct amount of schooling to attend university. Learning about this changed my entire perspective on the world around me, and it was then that I realized how much I actually care about the people around me, and how much I want equality for everyone. I now not only care about individuals respect, but I want to help them earn it. I traveled to a Marae and watched a Haka, and have taken a class learning about a culture I had never previously heard of, and it has given me an insight into who the Maori are and the struggles they have faced over the years. Study abroad has given me this opportunity. Traveling has allowed me to learn about the world around me, but also learn about myself along the way.
Over the past four months I have spent time with individuals from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Scotland, England, Ireland, Spain, Brazil, Singapore, Thailand, Wales, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States and have learned that although we all come from different backgrounds, we are all human. We have the same needs and wants and enjoy relatively the same things, and overall we just wanted to make friends. I have learned from each one of them, and hope that they have learned from me. I have already made plans to see my friends from Scotland, New Zealand, Canada and other parts of the United States and I am excited to show them where I am from. I feel like it would be an amazing opportunity for us to learn about each other’s homes and it also allows us to maintain connections with one another from across the world. Ultimately, these friendships have prospered, and will continue to prosper, because all of us came into this experience with an open mind, and a desire to learn. We each took the time to listen to one another and understand each other and our backgrounds before we made any judgments. If there is one piece of advise that I could give someone it is to never jump to conclusions, and try your hardest not to hold preconceived opinions. You’d be surprised how wrong you are about someone most of the time.
As the time to say goodbye is fast approaching my flat, my complex, and all of my friends have come up with several things to do to ease this transition before going home. Last week, my entire complex got together and we took a complex picture. Tomorrow my flat is making dinner together and then we are going to a Buenas Noches party where all of my friends will be. This is a farewell party for everyone because we will all be leaving at different times. On Monday myself and a couple other friends are going around Dunedin to take pictures and do some last-minute site seeing. On Tuesday those of us that will still be here will go out to dinner at the first restaurant that we went to when arriving and on Wednesday those of us are that are still in my complex are going to have a barbecue and hang out all day. Thursday morning I have an eight hour layover in Auckland so everyone in my program on the group flight will spend some time in the city and in Los Angeles I have a 10 hour layover so myself and a few others who are also on my flight to Boston will spend the day roaming around LA. Ultimately, I have a time where I can officially say goodbye to everyone so that I will have closure when I arrive home.
I am currently feeling both excited and upset about returning home. I am excited to get home and see all of my friends and family, specifically my friends who were abroad and left late December. I am also excited because I will be starting a new internship and I can begin working again and earning money, so instead of watching my bank account slowly dwindle down to nothing, I can watch it go back up again. I am also excited because it will be summer and I will make it home for the Fourth of July, which is one of my favorite holidays. However, I am upset because I will be leaving an amazing country, amazing friends, and a home that I have created for myself. I will no longer be able to jump in a car on Thursday and go away for the weekend, and I will no longer be able to do many of the things that I have come accustomed to doing. I will miss New Zealand and my Kiwi host more than anything so I have created a video montage of all my favorite places and all of my favorite moments that I have had here. I have also taken over 1000 pictures since I arrived and have purchased souvenirs from my favorite places. I have also purchased souvenirs for my friends and family and plan to explain the significance of each of the things I’ve purchased for them. I am hoping that through expressing the importance of New Zealand to me and all of the things that I have learned, those around me will better understand how I have changed, but accept that I am still the same person, just with new knowledge and a different outlook on the world around me. Many of my friends have also studied abroad this past semester so I believe that they will better understand the transition I will be going through, because they are going through the same things.
One quote that has always been important too me, but specifically now, is, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions,” by Oliver Wendell Holmes. I have always loved this quote because I have always loved to try to new things and journey to new places, however, now that I have had the luxury of studying abroad, my mind has expanded immensely and I am forever changed by this experience.

Travel Log 15 “There’s No Place Like Home? Rites of Incorporation” by Domenique DeLucia. East Haven, CT

I have been back in America for about a week now, and it’s been weird to say the least. I mean everything is pretty much the same, but then it’s pretty much not the same. A lot happens in 5 months I have learned. I drove for the first time, which was a crazy feeling, and just when I was finally getting used to people driving on the other side of the road, here I am having to drive on the “normal” side. So very odd. I will definitely miss public transportation, as weird as that sounds. Obviously, I love being able to dictate what time I get places, or at least be on my time and not someone else’s. Driving stresses me out, I have remembered, since being back and I just loved living in a city and being able to walk everywhere, it was amazing.

Life in America, pretty much stayed the same, but I came back with so many new experiences, and sometimes it’s hard to put into words how crazy adventure was, and trying to explain my friends that I had made there, since no one in my family actually knows them. I understand why some people come back not really liking America, or really not being able to communicate to others who didn’t go through the experience and just closing off. I love being home, as much as I miss my friends and my time in London. It’s time to get back to normalcy, or as normal as my life will make it anyway.

I shared my letter once again with my dad, because without him, this whole experience wouldn’t have been possible. “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to step foot on one’s own country as a foreign land” (G.K. Chesterton). I think this quote, which was in the beginning of chapter 8, coincidentally, really resonates with what the reincorporation process is all about and how it will help me in the future. I didn’t think how much I would actually see America differently, and not in a bad way, just from a different point of view after living in another country. I think the people around me have been great so far, most of them just treat me the same. The day after I got back, I had a list of chores to do and things to help my dad around the house with. I was officially back to reality. They have been really great with wanting to see pictures and ask questions, but also being able to do it in a way where they act like I am a totally different person because I wasn’t here for 5 months and missed out on a bunch of things. It’s probably because most of the people that I spend the most time around, I always updated them with things that were happening with me so it’s not like I had a million things dumped on me at once.

To carry this experience forward with my family and community is to definitely print pictures and have them in my room so that they can see them or view them on Facebook and be able to look at them whenever they want to, and have a reminder that for those 5 months I was so doing this amazingly awesome thing. I don’t want to be the person who always brings it up in conversations with people, I don’t want to brag. It was a huge part of my life though, so I try to make some type of picture album or what not for people to see and look at whenever. Another thing that I want to do is, to just hold on the choices and decisions I made while I was abroad for myself. I think that I grew a lot as an individual, that I become more open with myself and comfortable being uncomfortable. I am usually very shy and I made it a point, to try and break out of my shell while I was there because I knew that would be the best way for the me to make the most of the limited time that I had there with these people.

As they say, old habits die hard, and they do. I still have some moments where I overthink situations, and feel ignored or unwanted in a conversation or a place and it happened to me a little in the beginning of my time abroad, and I was able to get over that a little bit because we were all together, living through the same thing. I will definitely need to hope that I don’t revert back to my old ways seeing that I am back with the people that make me feel this way, but I know that I have this group of people that I can text and call and be able to have a great conversation with and feel like I am wanted in a conversation, and it will be and get better. I am not worried. This experience has really changed my life, and I am so glad that I took the risk, took a leap of faith and have such wonderful memories of a time that I can’t even believe happened to me.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us” I am so incredibly grateful and thankful for this journey. I was able to see and do things that I thought I would never do in my lifetime. I met incredible people. I got to learn how to fly a broom at “Hogwarts” and climb up Arthur’s Seat. When I first decided to go on this journey, I thought it was because I wanted a change of scenery, a fresh start to something else, a new chapter in a way, but I learned a long the way that I wasn’t try to get away from anything, I was just running towards all the great things that I wanted in life and going abroad was a way for me to learn things about myself that will make all the things that I want to do with my life much more possible. I see them happening, rather than it just being a dream or an idea.

Rites of Reincorporation — by Daniel Raza

Having to come back to your home community after some time is not as easy. There are some challenges that I have to get used to in order to get back to my daily routines. Since I came, I have felt both excited and sad. I constantly recall my past experiences while abroad and then have to re-condition myself to know that it has been finished. Moving forward, I have to incorporate what I have learned and develop a better way to go back to my daily life. Being jet lagged is the biggest challenge for me. It is hard to catch up with friends at home since I wake up at 5am with full energy and feel exhausted once its about 4pm or 5pm. Also, while I was abroad, I had the mindset to be active and always being ‘on the go’ but since I came back, I have started to feel sluggish through out the day. I am still trying to remove myself from the Thai and Cambodian culture and trying to re-adjust to the American ways. It is great to be back to friends who have known me for so long but I also feel very different around them. The difference in feeling is not because I miss Thailand or Cambodia but because I am in that “liminal/new” stage of the reincorporation cycle.

When I shared my reincorporation letter with my friend’s mom, Isabella Marcyzk, she was very enthusiastic to hear about my experiences. I had actually met up with her in Thailand and she asked me to update her on the rest of my journey when I come back to the United States. When I read her the letter she said, “Now you are influenced from such great cultures and I can already tell that you will be a changed person.” Similarly, a lot of my friends have seen positive changes in my personality. Some have said that I appear to be more open minded and more patient.

As I move forward, I will definitely take my experiences and improve my personality. I have learned to respect others in a different way and be more open to changes that occur. I will also be more non-judgmental towards others.

Because I had the opportunity to live in a completely different culture than mine, I think I will definitely have changes in my attitudes. My old habits will be adjusted and improved. I already can tell that I am very patient with other people and have learned more discipline towards things. I hope there are significant changes in my personality and people see how I have transformed from my “old” self to now “new.” Prior to departing from Thailand, I had a lot of graduate students tell me that they have observed new changes in me. However, I was not able to understand what they meant. Perhaps after spending time back in the states, I will come to that realization.

A quote that describes my feelings and thoughts at this time is a very clichéd and funky saying but I think it captures everything very well. It reads, “Out with the old, in with the new.” I think this is a funny way to describe how I am feeling today after my experience abroad. I still cannot believe I was able to study abroad in extraordinary countries and learn so much. I hope other students take the opportunity to situate themselves in a very distinct culture than their own and learn as much as I did this past Spring semester of 2015.

TL 14 “Global Connections and Rites of Separation” by Daniel Raza

Author of Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning, Richard Slimbach states, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” (Slimach 54).  By this quote, Richard Slimbach is trying to convey to the reader that if one allows him or herself to be mindful of their surroundings, their experiences can take them above and beyond.  After studying abroad, I came to realize how privileged I am versus other people in the world. I had a friend who was Thai and her mom asked where I was from.  I told her I am originally from Pakistan but now I live in America.  She was shocked and started asking questions about how I managed to go to America and when I moved there.  She said, “You are very lucky to have an American passport. I wish I claimed one.”  Then that same day I thought about how even though she was well off in Thailand, she was still unsatisfied.  The ability to speak English and live in the United States is something I am very thankful for.

Cambodia was even more of an intense experience for me than Thailand.  In Cambodia, level of poverty is high.  I would introduce myself to people and tell them I am from America and they would immediately ask about my life there.  Furthermore, they would conclude, “I wish to go there some day.”  Hearing not one but many people from both countries say this was when I became aware of the “world within” (54).  It becomes awkward where you are left speechless after hearing people tell me they ‘wish’ they could have the same opportunity.  Other Americans feel even more embarrassed when people praise them for being white.  There is an immediate respect that is perceived once someone knows you are either white or holding an American passport.  I have even observed some people glance at me when I pull out my American passport and they are holding their Cambodian passports at the bus stations in Vietnam.

Interestingly, I also noticed people’s reaction to when I tell them I am from Pakistan versus saying I am from America. When I mention Pakistan to people, they automatically assume I am part of some terrorist group.  However, when I would tell people I am from America, they would immediately try to converse and get to know me better.  When I told people I am from Pakistan, I was not offended by their responses rather I became aware of how they think.  With lack of exposure and the mass media stereotypes, people would think something else of others.  However, America is known as the land of opportunity and to be “American” is significantly different.  I think this makes me part of being a global citizen because I have become aware of the privileges I am given versus others.  Also, instead of being offended and ridiculing another culture, we should learn to understand where their thoughts are coming from and perhaps acknowledge the fact that we are educated on many topics that teach us to be accepting whereas they, on the other hand, are wrongly convinced by the media.  Such topics include ethnicities, differences between terrorism and Islam, embracing our skin (white is not beautiful and color does not define beautification), LGBT and women issues.

As a farewell, I simply went to a dinner with all my friends in Thailand and said goodbye.  With my roommate, I met his family and told them how great my experience has been.  In Cambodia, my family made me a special dinner and we all ate together.

As my departure draws near, I think I am very excited to be home.  Now I am in the phases of both the “Liminal” and “New”.  My friends from Chiang Mai met me in Bangkok after 6 weeks of living in Phnom Penh and told me how they are impressed at how much I have changed during this past semester.  I was told that the change is good.  I have started talking to my friends and family back home.  I was slowly preparing myself to be aware that my departure date is coming close and this experience was good but it is coming to its end.  I think I am more involved with my friends back home now.  Some of them are waiting for me to come back.  I have made plans with both family and friends once I go back.  Studying abroad in Thailand and Cambodia has been very eye opening and a mindful experience but now I think its time for me to depart and leave this experience knowing that it somehow made me into a new person.  As time goes by, I will know for myself what exactly made me into that “new person”.

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Saying goodbye to the TEAN Program and the Thai roommates ^

Travel Log 15: “There’s No Place Like Home? Rites of Reincorporation” by Kayla Vitas. Hampton, New Hampshire.

Before going abroad I was always told that the most difficult transition is not when you get to your host country but rather when you return home to America. This was very hard for me to believe at first, but now that I have experienced both going abroad and returning home, I am able to see how accurate their words were. When arriving in Sevilla, I was extremely homesick for the first two weeks and I did not think I would ever experience anything like that feeling again. However, being back in America, I am having the same feelings. I am homesick from Spain, the friends I made, and the culture that I became a part of. Due to this state of being, I would consider myself a liminal again. Although America has been my home for the first twenty years of my life, being back in the states I feel like I am no longer in my “safe place.”

Two weeks before leaving America, I shared my separation letter with my parents and explained to them what a healthy separation would be while I was abroad. They were very understanding and very helpful in making my separation with them an easy transition. Now, that I have returned home from Europe, I will share with them my reincorporation letter. The first thing I explained to them was the importance of reincorporation and that the individual is being “newly born” and they are returning to the community with a ‘new status.’ In class we learned that when you go through the first phase, separation, you are “dieing” to yourself and when you go through the third and final stage, reincorporation, you are being “born.” I chose a quote by James Baldwin to share with my parents, “I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself.” I felt that when returning home from abroad I encountered a new part of myself that I never knew. In order for my parents to understand this process and the experiences that contributed to making me a new person, they needed to ask questions and take the time to listen to me even if they did not completely understand.

Studying abroad enhanced my love for traveling a million times. Every weekend I was traveling to different countries or different cities within Spain. I have never been a fan of planes but due to my constant traveling, I have learned to travel like a pro (or what I think is like a pro). Being home, I plan on traveling a lot more than I did before leaving America. I am interested in getting involved in a service trip to the Dominican Republic and traveling to different states to see the friends I met while being in Spain. Another way I plan on carrying out my study abroad experience is by getting involved with the program Teach for America. This program that allows individuals to travel to different countries and teach English to under privileged students. I hope to one-day travel back to a Spanish speaking country and learn more Spanish as well as teach English. Spain was able to give me one of the most amazing experiences in my life and I want to be able to give back to even more to the community.

Being a psychology major I have learned a lot about habits and what can be done in order to break a bad habit. I can admit that before going abroad I did not try new foods. I had a habit of eating the same foods and not exploring different options. My daily meals mostly consisted of the same options and I rarely stepped out of my comfort zone to eat new foods. I made it one of my goals to try unusual and exotic foods while traveling abroad and expand my horizons. To my surprise, this was a huge success and I tried foods that I would have never imagined that I would enjoy. Returning back to America I have found that I have broke my old habit of eating the same foods regularly. With only being home a week, I have already had my parents make different Spanish food dishes and I have strayed away from the unhealthy foods I always used to eat.

Reading Richard Slimbachs last chapter about reincorporation in Becoming World Wise, made me very emotional. Everything that I read was unfortunately 100% accurate and it was hard for me to fully grasp reality. I did not believe that home would feel like a foreign place to me, but it did. I didn’t expect myself to be so emotional and exhausted, but I did. I didn’t think I would have a difficult time explaining all my amazing experiences to my friends and family, but I did. I didn’t expect to feel depressed about being away from the people I met and the places I traveled to, but I did. I especially did not expect the reincorporation phase to be as difficult as I was told it was going to be. “Having made a deep emotional investment in another culture, we cant be expected to simply “blend” back home” (Slimbach 217).  Reading this quote helped me gather all my emotions and thoughts together because I realized that I needed to take a step back and understand that everything was not going to just fall back in place like I had expected it to.

Travel Log 12: “Service” by Domenique DeLucia. London, England

I decided that I wanted to do my service at a food bank. I chose to do it at one because the borough of London that I live in, Hackney, is one of the poorest ones in London. Whenever I am walking the streets, I always see the homeless or the poor sitting in the cold asking for some spare change. I don’t know the circumstances of their situation, but I always want to help a person in need if I have the power to do so.

The Islington Food Bank was a way for me to do so. I participated in what they call a supermarket drive, where we hand out shopping lists to prospective shoppers outside of a supermarket and ask if they can kindly buy an extra one or two items to help people in need. This was an absolutely incredible experience, I can’t even tell you.

I definitely think volunteering in the city that you are studying abroad in makes you feel closer to the community and people in which you share a home for however many months that you are here for. I took pride in volunteering and letting people know that I was a American, studying abroad who decided I wanted to give back to the community. Many people really liked that, I was generally surprised how much they seemed to appreciate that. When you are anywhere outside of your, you are representing yourself and your country/city and you should want to make a great impression.

I have volunteered a lot at food banks before back at home, but I have never received so many items of food than I did in the day that I was there, I never noticed how generous people in London are. While yes, many wont spare any change to the gentleman or woman on the street, probably because they don’t understand the struggle or don’t trust the circumstances of why they are in the street. But when you ask these people to help people in crisis, they answer the call. It made fall in love with London again, and not for the amazing monuments or the scenic walks wherever you go, but the people. The people made me see and understand that getting to study in this country isn’t about getting cool instagram photos or just filling up your passport with a bunch of stamps from other countries, it’s about becoming a part of the communitas that is around us. Really living here, not just being here.

Richard Slimbach talks about volunteerism and the effects that it can have on a person but more importantly the effects of the community, “the world becomes a living classroom –a place to watch and wonder, to enter into the experiences and perspectives of others, to communicate across differenced, and to use the knowledge on behalf of the common good” (5). I think that this also helps you become less ignorant to the world around you, when you are volunteering and helping others in their time of need in a place where you don’t live. Many people want to say that they are cultured because they traveled to a bunch of countries. That doesn’t make you cultured, that just means you racked up a lot of airfare miles. To truly be cultured, and to truly understand what other countries and people go through who not familiar to us, is to volunteer or to educate yourself on your surroundings. Get to know the history, and the people and the places to truly grasp the beauty and grace that the country has to offer. We as people, sometimes don’t even take the time to get cultured about the places that we live in. I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity, it made me feel like I was part of the community that I lived in.