Volunteering in Barcelona was actually surprisingly similar to what I was used to in America. As someone who has devoted a lot of time to organizations like the YMCA, I am very used to spending time with children as a source of volunteering. I spent 4 summers at a YMCA camp, and a semester in high school at an after school program, working with young kids. In Barcelona, I volunteered at a very similar place and I enjoyed just as I used to in America. In Spain, a lot of parents spend late nights in the office because of the hours that businesses are open here. When nothing opens until 10 or so in the morning, it winds up being that they work past 7 or 8 at night, long after their kids get out of school. Not only was this helpful for the development of my Spanish, but it was also a chance for me to get further immersed in the culture. In America, the children that I used to work with would grab me and prod me to play games with them or help them with their homework, however here in Barcelona the children are much more touchy. As I couldn’t really help them with their homework, I essentially turned into a camp counselor again. Back when I did service at a summer camp I was used to being dragged around and begged to play soccer, dodgeball, basketball, tag, and so on, and it was similar here; children universally love to run around. There was this boy named Enrich that came up to me as soon as I arrived and asked me in Catalan to play futbol with him and his friends. This short little kid who clearly doesn’t care who comes in to volunteer, but is dead set on playing the game he loves and driving the volunteers crazy with the amount of energy he had. He looked at me with an excited look on his face and said in Catalan, “Vine a jugar a futbol!” Who was I to say no? It became quite clear to me at that point that I was out of league. When you get to grow up watching Lionel Messi play soccer, you pick up a few things and if it weren’t for me being a foot taller than the next tallest kid, I would have been a human traffic cone. Slimbach states, “The first step in this journey is to venture outside our comfort zones and get involved directly and personally in the lives of others, especially those occupying the margins of society…to create respectful and mutually beneficial relationships.” It was an eye opening experience because for once in my life I was in a place that I never would have thought I would be. I considered the fact that I was in Barcelona, Spain playing soccer with 10 year olds at a place similar to a Boys and Girls Club and developing relationships with these kids that I will never see again. It has been so weird to me to realize that many of the relationships that I have made here are never going to be longer than my time here; I will forget all about these people and these children. I definitely enjoyed my time volunteering and I would do it again if I had the time to and I will remember it for the rest of my life as the time I volunteered in Spain.
It’s been one crazy roller coaster ride. I’ve been home for about a week now and it’s just flown by. I feel as if I’m almost not even present in my being, I’ve literally been living day to day. It’s not so much a result of shock or being overwhelmed since my return, but rather it’s because I didn’t really get a nice transition into my return from abroad and beginning the semester here back home. I literally went from airport to bed and the next morning drove up moved in and attended classes. I didn’t really get a little break to adjust back to the flow of things back home. Even so, I don’t really feel disadvantaged at all. I mean granted being home feels so different, but it’s not a bad different.
As I look back to 1 week back I remember mentally preparing myself for the separation from the friends and makeshift family I made in my host country and the country itself. It was definitely a bittersweet situation and still is. I mean I wanted to see the family I hadn’t seen for almost half a year, but at the same time I didn’t want to leave those who I had grown close with in my host country. No matter who and where you travel there is no way you can’t grow attached to the people and environment around you. It was just how I started this journey in the first place except now I knew where I was going and where I came from. Now when I think about it, it’s not just the people and the country, but the effect those people and places had on me. Since coming back home even with all the rushing, I still feel at ease, not in matters of school obviously the beginning of the semester is always hectic, but rather as a person. I feel satisfied with the person who came back and how she’s changed from the girl who left almost 6 months ago.
I know from what we read in chapter 8, Slimbach talks about the 3 types of returnees and I’d like to think of myself as the: “integrative returnee”. This trip beyond the people and the places I saw, though important, it was a journey that led me to discover things about myself and gain wisdoms and knowledge or the world around me. It’s strange to compare it to liminality because I don’t mean it in the way we spoke about it earlier in the semester. I mean in the sense that my being and thoughts aren’t just encompassing my home thinking or my host country thinking, but a combination of the two. I feel comfortable questioning things that I never thought of or paid attention to before.
I had a really long conversation with my folks on the way home from the airport and we really talked about everything. Dealing with how I felt when I left home to the first month to the end of my trip to returning home. It was a lot of mixed emotions and feelings, with leaving and coming back. We talked a lot about my outlook and plans for the future, I have this drive to push my ideas and plans down the path that I choose. I discussed with them how I reflected a lot on my future and past which elicited some emotions with all of us, especially talking about my reflection of the past. I think if anything my time abroad taught me to be more open about things I kept to myself. It was nice to be able to finally share my thoughts with my family and having them understand the person I am and will grown and continue to be. I mean not anything drastic, but I was never one to share my feelings (i.e. Upset, stressed with, or sad) with anyone and would keep them in and I’ve done fine, but there’s a nice pressure off your shoulders when you have people to depend on and listen. I’ve always been the one people go to for advice or if they need someone to talk to. So I always felt that expressing the same, not that it wasn’t allowed, but rather I felt like it burden the person I shared it with. It was silly. There were many things that this trip taught me and if anything I think communication and self-reflection of definitely a part of that. I discovered a lot of things about myself that I can’t even begin to explain or describe. I used a picture of a girl looking off into the distance from a cliff edge with a determined stance, almost as if saying she will accomplish all in her way, not even mountains could stand in her way. Here it is:
I hoped with this picture to show that I have come home even stronger than when I left. That I will not give up on the things I take up and I will strive anywhere I am. To I hoped to represent that I would move forward and not dwell on the past, but not forget the lessons I learned from my past experiences. That I would learn and incorporate the things I learned in all that I do in the future.
In this past week I’ve met up with some friends and I’ve come to realize that not all of them should be in my life. Not to say that their horrible people, but rather it seems that we no longer share the same interests and are all going to different directions with our lives. That’s not a bad thing at all people change and sometimes you can’t change with them. I think since getting back I recognized the people who will be friends for life and those that will meet and go your separate way. It’s a sign of growth and step towards the future. They all ask the same question, “How was it?” and I mean for some of them they are genuine and want to know, while others just say it out of courtesy. That’s just the way it goes, I expected it so I’m not too bothered. I do however feel like I’ve matured over my time abroad and some of my friends have said the same thing, that I’m even more level headed as I was before. It’s a bad thing, I learned a lot so I think that’s a given. I think what it is, it that my view and outlook on things have changed.
Slimbach mentions “precious gems” to describe the riches gained during your abroad journey. More specifically the metaphorically riches, things that you took from your experience and he does this by breaking these experiences into 8 different types. The two that I think I can incorporate into my life now so as not to lose what I have gained are to cultivate primal joys and discern vocation. While abroad I was able to meet so many wonderful people some of which are really close to my heart. I made a promise with them and myself to keep in touch, but even beyond that hold fast to the things I learned from them. For instance I adopted the habit of one of flat mates, which was her and her family while cooking dinner would have this book of quizzes on various topics. The entire family would join in and the interaction was really welcoming. No electronics just enjoying each other’s company and coming together as a family. I really enjoyed and want to start that type of tradition with my own family. Another one of my friends from abroad had this habit of singing at random times throughout the day and once we asked why he did that and he told us it was because he was happy. I learned from him that anytime is a good time to express yourself and do what makes you happy. I’m going to try and incorporate this way of thinking to my everyday life, taking at least 30 minutes a day to just lay back and do something that I enjoy. Also, now anytime I sing I automatically think of the flat mate. With discerning vocation Slimbach talks about finding yourself and what makes you happy in life. When I was abroad I developed this habit of whenever I needed to think over things or wanted to sort through my thoughts I went for long relaxing and peaceful walks. By the time I arrived back from where I started I resolved whatever had been bothering and was able to approach the problem or situation more efficiently. Not to mention that by the time I came back from my walk I was 10x times happier and relaxed. I found a way to sort through my life when I recognize that there is a need to. In addition by traveling abroad I was able to find things that I really enjoyed that I had never given any thought to. I will continue to try and accomplish the same things as I did while abroad. It was a truly life changing experience and I won’t lose what I gained from it.
Now that I think about my old habits there are some that have definitely changed since I left home and have returned. This is mostly because I’m not the same person I was when I left and those habits don’t hold any real need to continue now. For instance my habit of keeping or having too many things; after living abroad with the bare minimum I honestly don’t need or want much. I’m getting rid of a lot of things during spring-cleaning. It was a habit my mother tried to break for a long time, but it just happened naturally as a result of studying abroad. I don’t maybe because now I’m interested in travel and it’s easier to travel light? I ate a lot healthier and tried lots of things while aboard that I would never dare to try or look at because I was super picky. I really hope I can continue that momentum and not fall back into the slump of things now that I’m home. Although I taste in sweet things is even less than what it already was to begin with, but still, I hope I will be able to maintain.
“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must no stay there, you must go beyond them.”
~ Bruce Lee
I chose this quote because right now as I think back to who I was and the way I thought about things, I was held back by the limitations I put to myself. If I had never reached past my expectations I would never have gotten to go abroad. I have goals and dreams that I would say are definitely hard to accomplish and reach, but they are possible. I feel by studying abroad I have created an open door for all possible opportunities and I will no longer limit myself. I will strive past my expectations and accomplish my goals. If there are no limits, then there are no impossibilities, if there are no impossibilities then there can only be opportunities.
I anticipated that reincorporation might be a difficult transition for me. I had an incredible experience abroad and it was hard to leave behind all the places and people that I met. One thing that helped me get through this transition was the knowing that I am not leaving all of it behind. In a way I am bringing it all with me through my growth. The people I met have helped shape my views and experiences and the places I traveled helped develop a greater respect for culture and a better understanding of global citizenship. So every time I think about how difficult it was for me to leave, I hold some solace in knowing that it is not gone for good.
Since arriving home it feels as though life has continued on as normal, which for the most part, it has. Everyone here went on with their lives. So when I came home it was strange to hear my parents talking about all of these activities that were going on that I hadn’t heard about. It was strange to get together with my friends and hear the simple jokes that came from things that occurred during the time I was away. I would never trade my time abroad, but I understand the struggle that can exist when returning to a host culture.
There is a level of isolation that I was not anticipating. You have experienced so many incredible things, but returning home you find that you feel like an outsider. Your host culture became the norm. I became accustomed to the Swiss people and the Swiss way of life. I got used to a new group of friends and transitioned to a new school environment. Now that I return home I feel little like how I did in my first few days of arriving in Switzerland. You expect to feel like an outsider in when you arrive in your host country, but you never expect to feel like and outsider when you return home.
With each day that passes since I have returned home it gets easier and harder. Easier in the sense that I continue to acclimated to my surroundings and familiarize myself with my old lifestyle, but harder because I miss my host culture more and more. I guess I should not say that it has been easy to return to my old lifestyle because I feel that I have grown and changed since I have been abroad. When you return people often love to hear about the experiences and the adventures but don’t anticipate the personal changes. Even if they do anticipate them, they often do not consider the long-term implications. They may notice that you are not the same person as when you left but may not know how to respond to that.
This is one of the reasons that the video log is such an important aspect. The video log will allow me to share my story and my lessons in a clear and concise way. It will bring life to the growth that I have experienced and serve as a vehicle for explaining my adventure.
If I hadn’t learned about rites of passage I may not have thought much about the rituals of returning home, but now that I am aware it is clear how there is very little effort to transition back to the host culture. It is essential for us to be aware of the environment that we are returning so we are better able to handle the struggles that come with reincorporation. However, the absence of rituals in our society allows us to create our own and share the concept of rites of passage with our community.
Saying our final departure good-byes to our host-supervisor, Mary, was probably the hardest part about leaving, but boarding the bus that took us to the airport was an extremely bittersweet feeling. I was sad to be leaving an amazing place that had once been so unknown and foreign but now could not feel more like home. It felt like we all had just became familiar with our daily routines, tasks and surroundings (reincorporation phase) and now we are being taken back to the liminal phase.
When the plane departed from Shannon Airport and I saw my last glimpses of the green, rock-wall lined fields, I felt excited and anxious instead of emotional and upset. Reminiscing, I was proud of myself for everything that I had accomplished in the four months I had spent in Ireland and was overwhelmed with new ideas and everything that I learned about myself and those around me. We all grew and changed in our own ways. We have grown to become better people and integrated ourselves in the global community as responsible citizens.
Arriving in America was just as bittersweet as leaving our apartment complex. On one hand, I was excited to see my family, friends, and dog but, on the other hand, I was nervous as to how I was going to interact and react to a place that I have not been in four months. America and the people around me felt foreign to me even though I had lived there for my entire life. I was scared, disoriented and immediately taken back to the liminal phase. As Slimbach states on page 205, nothing will be familiar for awhile. “…you’re probably a different person than when you left. Having struggled to overcome so many ‘dragons,’ both within and without, you now look at yourself and your natal culture differently. Your hometown hasn’t moved, and your network of family and friends is still intact-but both feel different, almost like a foreign land” (205).
It will take some getting used to the faster-paced lifestyle, which is completely the opposite of what Ireland was like. The lack of patience in those around me is frustrating and it seems like everyone is in a rush to get nowhere. Paying for items at stores has proven to be a challenge in itself, also. I had become so used to the Euro currency and having no sales tax that it took me a little longer than usual to buy something as simple as a coffee.
Sharing my letter with my closest friend was actually a fun experience. She was excited for me to be home but was also excited at how much I had learned and overcome throughout my study abroad experience. She was also excited to be considered a part of my overall experience and wanted to facilitate my reincorporation to make it as easy and simple as possible. Slimbach states on page 209 that some relationships that may have been strong before I left are now weak and non-existent. He also states home as a place that does not exist because it is wherever we, individually, create it. Fortunately, a few close relationships from my natal culture in America have strengthened but some have vanished. The quote I relate to is “Just as we had to construct a home in our host culture, we must now learn to reconstruct a new home in our home culture” (208).
I have gained a better understanding for the world and the cultures that inhabit it; I am more open-minded and open to try new things. Instead of completely shutting down an opportunity in a future job or in my community because it’s not something I would normally do, I will take more time to consider it, because why not? I have learned that change is a good thing. A habit I will change is being more open and accepting of people and things before coming to quick conclusions.
Slimbach’s quote perfectly describes the journey I have experienced this semester. As I look back on my journey abroad it is not the places that stand out, but rather my personal journey. I think when most study abroad students, including myself, prepare for their travels they expect some of the cultural differences and prepare for many of the changes in their surroundings. However, we are often not prepared for the change in ourselves. People can tell you how travel affects you until your ears bleed but until you fully experience it for yourself, you won’t understand the magnitude.
The amount that one grows when abroad can be hard to measure and often hard to see. Since it is a change in yourself, it often goes unnoticed. However, when you step back and look at your journey as a whole you get a much better idea of just how far you have come.
One interesting way to mark progress is to see how your ideas of a global citizen and how your actions as a global citizen have changed. When I began the semester I didn’t know what it meant to be a global citizen. I remember thinking to myself ‘Well we are all on this planet and we are all citizens so wouldn’t that make all of us global citizens?” That logic could not have been further from the truth. Using my initial logic I did not acknowledge the time, effort, and desire that needs to be dedicated to becoming a global citizen. Being a global citizen is a responsibility. It requires you to consistently put effort into relating to your surroundings and the world far beyond them. It involves significant levels of respect and tolerance. It involves recognizing and standing up for injustice. Global citizenship is not a right for everyone. It is a learned practice that develops through deep and reflective cultural immersion.
As I prepare to leave Switzerland, I am far more of a global citizen than the day I arrived. I have developed a global perspective and feel the responsibility of respect, tolerance, and justice that come with this mindset.
It is hard to imagine that my four months here have come to an end. It will be incredibly difficult to leave. There are so many things about Switzerland itself that I will truly miss. It will also be challenging to leave all the people I met this semester knowing that we are all heading in different directions. I have developed strong emotional ties to this place and it is hard to wonder when or whether I will be able to return. However, I am so thankful for this opportunity. As the end draws near it is gives me the time to think ahead to how these changes will shape my life. We all have to return home, often to an environment that feels like little has changed. I am lucky enough to have to opportunity to continue my journey abroad. As I adventure to New Zealand I will have a completely different, but hopefully equally as rewarding experience. Having gone through this class and learning about the global community and communitas and knowing the importance of the reflection process I feel more equipped to take on this second semester abroad.
As we discussed our return home during the workshops in May, I contemplated how my personal return home would go. I didn’t spend much time pondering this topic simply because it was just so far away. However, as that distant moment quickly approaches, it is now a very realistic idea to consider how my reincorporation to home will go. After such an amazing time abroad how will I adjust back to my traditional life?
Often times when you go away for a period of time and return, you here people critically use the term ‘change.’ They treat the word as though it is something horrible, that your time away had an effect on you as a person and now you see and act differently. I feel that this is strongly correlated to a negative view of change. Change is not comfortable, it is not familiar, and most of the time it is not easy. This idea ties in with the lack of community-based rituals in our society. There may be a single party when you return home to celebrate your arrival, but then it is expected that things will simply return to the way they were before you left. Little consideration is given to acknowledge the change you experienced.
Blumenkrantz and Goldstein discuss the idea of a paradigm shift. This time away allows to you to reflect on your life and consider not only your personal views but those of the world. Attempting the return and explain this change of views, your new found passions, skills, and ideas acts as a challenging barrier in your integration back home.
The digital story allows some of these barriers to be broken down. The idea of combining the visual elements with your words helps to make it more meaningful. Many a time people aren’t too interested in what has occurred in your time abroad, expect for maybe wanting to here a few crazy stories, but the digital story provides a tangible resource for people to help understand your experience abroad. Not only is the digital story helpful for my family and friends, but it is helpful for me. I get to sit down and reflect on my journey as a whole. I have to attempt to sum up four months worth of incredible experience into two or three minutes.
Both of the digital stories provided a great reflection on the journeys that the individuals experienced. Personally, I was drawn to Michael’s digital story. Since he also studied abroad in Lugano, I got to hear the journey of a person in the same location as me. I recognized all of the scenery in the video and some of the people as well. It was interesting to see how many things we shared in common in our experience and also the different experiences I had in my time here. I felt he did a wonderful job of summing up how it was the people that made the experience for him.
Despite being eager to complete my digital story, I wonder how I will do it. I feel that I have learned so many things in my time abroad and I don’t know how I will be able to express them all in 4 minutes. My goal is for this story to serve as a well rounded reflection on my journey here. I hope that my digital story provides those around me with a deeper understanding of my time abroad
Richard Slimbach’s statement, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” (54), is completely accurate in relation to the time that I have spent studying abroad in Cork, Ireland. Had it not been for the prompts presented in QU 301 each week, I do not think that my time abroad would have been as fulfilling. I would have been in Ireland but I would not have been paying attention to the minor details that later became great experiences or unforgettable moments. There is a significant difference between “existing” and “living” and I think that is what Slimbach is somewhat trying to convey by this statement. We are immersed into a new culture but we will only grasp the culture and really understand the details if we allow ourselves to. Becoming immersed to the point of truly understanding the culture that surrounds us can be achieved by letting go of any fears and becoming more vulnerable to fully observe and take in the culture. The following statement made by Richard Slimbach exemplifies this point: “ Our journey may be filled with much outward movement, but we are mostly traveling inside ourselves, to destinations never quite arrived at when we’re surrounded by sameness” (55). If we did not let ourselves become vulnerable, then one never let the host culture fully engulf them to really understand the deeper concepts.
I feel like I have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a global community citizen since I have been in Ireland. I think that the documentary “Half the Sky” really encompassed what it means to be a global citizen by seeing people volunteer their time and efforts to make a change in another culture by trying to understand them while incorporating their own cultures as a comparison as a method of resolving the issues at hand. Moving forward, I will use my understanding of different cultures and the ideas associated to them with an open mind. I think too many people close their minds off to different ideas because they seem “strange” or it’s not something they would agree with. This, I feel, is the root of the ongoing racial issues in America.
Although I have made many new friends here, the one person I really “clicked” with was a girl, Sarah, from California. We have planned to have our own “farewell” brunch this upcoming Saturday as well as an entire day of walking around Cork City Center to re-experience each other’s favorite spots. This will help me to better understand her transitional phase when she first arrived as well as tell her about mine and then we can compare experiences.
As the time for my departure nears, I feel extremely overwhelmed. Friends who have previously studied abroad told me that time will fly while I am here but I did not realize how fast it would go by. So far, I have tried to visit my favorite places in the city and spend as much time as I can outside and away from my laptop and phone. I think beginning the process of the Reincorporation phase will be emotionally difficult knowing that it is the end of an incredible journey. On the other hand, I will take everything that I have learned abroad and from this course to complete the Reincorporation phase and the Rite of Passage process and to, ultimately, conduct a comparison of how I was before I departed America to how I will be when I arrive in America.
image from: http://media.bridgesandballoons.com/Images/2012/07/The-Journey-is-the-Destination2.jpg
In order to become a ‘global citizen’ I first had to make ‘global connections’. Now this does not necessarily mean that I just had to meet people from other countries and have a conversation with them, it is more about how I can recognize their cultural differences and allow those differences to have a personal positive impact. I hope to be able to read about a country that I have been to and/or met someone from and have a more globally precise opinion on the situation rather than an Americanized opinion. Once I make ‘global connections’ I can then move forward onto becoming a ‘global citizen’ which involve me having an intellectual conversation with those I met from other countries and having someone I can possibly stay with when visiting their home country in the future. Since I am an American and was raised believing that certain countries are worse than others I will always have a small bias, but the more I learn about those countries that I was taught were bad the more I will be able to make a personal opinion. And only when I am able to make an informative opinion about global crisis will I be able to consider myself globally citizen.
The only solution to solving any problem is with multiple minds working on it at the same time. As Albert Einstein once said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it” (P.51). I see this quote as a good explanation of the quote that I was asked to analyze and discuss which is, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into the world within.” (P.54). Einstein’s quote pairs well with this quote because anyone can travel abroad and have experiences that they may never forget but if those experiences are not shared with others then it is almost as if they never really traveled abroad in the first place. This is also true about any problem an individual may have. If the individual can’t communicate their problems with others then how do they expect to solve them?
To properly separate myself from Ireland I have chosen to walk through the streets of Cork and take a picture of any place that I have been to during my time abroad. I will do this over an afternoon and hopefully enjoy this experience. I will not just take the pictures and move onto the next location, I will remember all of the times I spent there and how those experiences changed my overall thoughts of my time studying abroad. For most of these places I will most likely go inside and grab a pint or a snack and get one last mental image of where I have spent the last four months of my life. Prior to leaving I will also try and say goodbye to all of those that I have met and befriended while in Ireland.
In order to accomplish this large task of saying goodbye to everyone I have befriended I was thinking about coordinating a farewell dinner for everyone with the best fish and chips in all of Ireland, Jackie Lennox. I will hope to have a conversation with every individual about how they made my time in Ireland better with their presence and give them my contact information so we can all stay in contact when I return home. I just hope that people will have time to meet considering it is finals week. When I return home I will certainly miss Ireland and will need some time to re-adjust to driving on the right side of the road again. Besides that I will also realize how much I have learned during my time abroad and how I will be able to use my new skills and knowledge in my everyday life.
In Becoming World Wise, Richard Slimbach states, “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” (54). I completely agree with Slimbach here after my experience abroad. I know it is not over yet and that I still must reincorporate when I return home, but I feel that when you study abroad, you learn so much about yourself. Everyone grows up trying to make sense of this vast world we live in, trying to form some type of identity to establish who you are. Yet, when students like myself study abroad, “the sudden vulnerability we experience as we arrive in an unknown place stripped of familiar surroundings, people, and routines renders us acutely aware of who we are, or at least of who we’re not” (54). The last part of this quotation is what truly speaks to me. When I arrived in Perugia, I was lost and somewhat afraid. I didn’t know anybody here, but I did know what I liked and especially what I didn’t like. Because I was lost in such a new place, I was completely vulnerable. But it is often when one is vulnerable does a person grow and open up to new ideas, places, other people, and especially cultures. By opening up to all of these things, you can learn so much which in turn allows you to learn about yourself. What is more amazing is that everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is weak and vulnerable in this new culture and place so unfamiliar to all of us. The result is something more than spectacular: we are all free. Free to speak and think and play and act and feel in any way we would like, all the while simultaneously learning so much about a host culture that used to be completely unknown to us.
Early on in my semester abroad, two of my very new friends and myself wanted to find the Perugina chocolate factory. We knew we had to hop on a bus take it to some stop, but it proved to be a much more difficult challenge when everyone speaks Italian but you. Still, we hopped on a random bus hoping to arrive at the factory. We had no idea what stop the factory was at, but we knew the bus should be about twenty or thirty minutes. We saw no sign of a chocolate factory anywhere stop after stop, so we thought we should just get off at the next stop and try to find a different bus or ask for directions. When we get off at what we thought was a random stop, we step into an area that is filled with smell of sweet, delicious chocolate. We instantly burst into laughter at the fact that we had miraculously arrived at the chocolate factory after hopping on a bus that we weren’t even sure would take us to our destination. The point of this little story is to describe the freedom of our exploration and carefreeness to our adventure, and how even if you don’t know how you’re going to get somewhere there will always be a way to make it work. We were all just starting to get to know each other, all still learning Italian, yet we were all free in this new place together and it all worked out. It was pure bliss.
Being in Perugia as well as other places in Italy has made me realize that I am a small person in a huge world. I have been in Italy learning how to speak the Italian language and learning the culture in this community. Yet, there are so many other countries with their own languages and cultures that I have never even seen or been to. It may sound obvious to others but it is the truth. To call yourself a global citizen, a citizen of this world, one has to realize this and that we all have our own ways of doing things across cultures. But, this person must also realize that when it comes down to it, we are all the same. We’re all doing the same thing: living and loving life. I will not ever forget what it was like to be a foreigner and to be afraid in different culture, and I will always remember my experiences here when I return home.
I have met so many people here that I connected with and will truly miss. I will cherish the times and the laughs we’ve shared, as well as the memories we’ve made for as long as I live. I wish I could do something for all of them to show them this. A compliment and saying something nice can really go a long way, so I know before I leave I will tell them how great they all are. In addition to these great people I’ve met, I have also been to some great places. Before I go, I am going to take one last turn around Perugia to say goodbye.
It is strange to think how I did not know any of the great friends I have made before this trip. It is like we were all different lines so far from each other. But then each line intersected and met at one point to become one line. While we’ve been moving on the same line for long now, we will all soon separate again branching off to different points. While this makes me sad, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with everyone here. Maya Angelou once said, “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” And I feel I have done just that. I have shared many moments with the people I came to know and love here in Perugia. And I am so thankful for everything that’s happened.
I have a week until the holiday break; I can’t even fathom the thought that my time here is almost up. I mean I’ll be here until January, but time has passed me by without a wink of remorse, but rather with the hope that I found what I was looking for. I hope I do.
I’ve become part of the community here, I know the faces and I know the names, but it wasn’t like that back when I first got here. Obviously, coming to a new country and trying to establish yourself in a foreign community is going to be hard, but I was lucky that people were welcoming and willing to help me. That’s some that I know personally doesn’t really happen back home. Like Blumenkrantz and Goldstein discussed their really is a lack of meaning community-based rituals for the American society. I feel like its more of the overwhelming need to leave your parents house and build up you’re reputation. There’s no transition into adult but rather a hands off, you’re on your own attitude. It doesn’t breed community, it breeds this illusion of doing celebrating these negative checkpoints that mark adulthood, the fake-based rituals (having your first kiss etc.). In America there’s always those stupid high school rite of passage that hold no worth and instead of promoting community and unity, promote peer pressure and bullying. It damages not only the health of the community of the present, but also sets the stage for even darker futures to come because it’s only getting worse. Adolescence and young adult stages of one’s life are the most crucial in raising the next generation of the world, the impact on their lives now determines our future. We should try as a community to fix these problems now, to provide a positive environment that builds on community and unity, rather than racing to the finish line survival of the fittest style. America has become too materialistic, its time we start our own health traditions, bridge a new positive path for the sometimes-scary life transitions, and grow together instead of competing against each other.
The three elements that I have chosen are adversity, silence, and time alone. I think when it comes down to my experience thus far these three elements have been key players, not in a negative way, but in a positive way. Whether they be a part of my potential theme or not these elements were ever present in me accomplishing my goals while abroad and changing who I was to who I am.
Adversity has played two separate roles. It was both physical as well as emotional in it’s targeting. Coming here on my own away from my family, wasn’t too bad, acclimation was fairly easy for me. However, while climbing Mt. Snowdon it dawned on me, not only was I moving forward overcoming and reaching the top, but I was also dealing with the emotional turmoil of leaving my familial responsibility behind. All the feelings that I had kept at bay were rearing they’re ugly head at me, and the only way to overcome it was to keeping moving forward, just like I was physically climbing Mt. Snowdon to the top. When I finally made it to the top I breathed a breath of fresh answer and like that all the turmoil I kept inside, slipped away floating away with wind. I had overcome my obstacles and let go of the past, returning back down from the mountain renewed and refreshed.
Silence was my clarity and my peace. There were no more distractions, no sound just the awakening of my other senses taking in the new world around me. It was peaceful and quiet, no boisterous yelling or obnoxious shouts but the symphony and presence of clarity. My problems were no longer big, but small and my decisions no longer seemed loud and daunting, but calm and refreshing. The sea of opportunity waving my down, inviting me to explore it.
Time alone is something I needed. However nerve wracking it was to come to a new place on my own, I needed to do it. I needed time alone, away from the people I once knew and from the thoughts and voices that kept chasing me. I find that I often go on peace walks here and although I may feel frustration and bubbling emotions rise in me, its my chance to let it all go, to lose my self in my surrounds and truly be rid of the burden I carry. I relish these walks, this time alone, to scream all the breath from my lungs with tears of happiness because for that moment, for that time that I am alone I feel free. Free from obligation, free from the person I’m supposed to be, I’m not a student or a classmate, but I am myself the vision that I imagine and dream for myself. I don’t have to pretend and I don’t have to live up to anybody’s expectation. I am just Alexandra, a girl that can walk freely in freedom granted to her by the precious time, someone out there was kind enough to send my way. I’m steadily finding myself and growing little by little, day by day.
The Paris digital story really resonated with me, the backbone on which it was built, of how she grew seems similar to my own experiences except in the same way completely different. The student really captivate her audience with her woven story of her growth and experience, in a way that you lived that change with her in those 4 minutes. Those 4 minutes that held those 3 precious and life altering months, it made one realize that emotional pain is part of growth, you lose and you gain in order to rebuild yourself in the image you imagine.
The differences might not be visible to you at the time and all hope might be shrouded in darkness, but once you except what happened in the darkness you see stars, stars that lead to a new path in life. You grow and learn from your past, you keep moving forward. That’s the change she went through and the one I feel I myself am going through. She bore her soul and invited you to join her in the journey she experienced.