As I watch the countdown I have on my iPhone tick down into single digits, and now I am officially less than a week away from departing for London, I am beginning to feel overwhelmed in addition to my excitement. I look over at my suitcases that haven’t been unpacked from moving home from Quinnpiac and I think about all of the plans I have in the upcoming days, and I can’t help but break out in a sweat. But, unfortunately, I had to take a break from thinking about my trip to be at the sides of close family friends who had lost someone.
My dad’s best friend from childhood lost his father, and it was like I had lost a grandfather. As I went through the two days of the wake and the funeral, I knew this would be the last time that I see my dad’s side of the family before I go abroad. Saying goodbye to my grandma and my aunts was easy because I don’t see them very often, but my dad and uncle live together and I see them quite often, so I knew that would be much harder. And I knew reading my separation letter to them would be even harder. My dad and uncle are not normally emotional; seeing them cry at the wake and funeral of their friend’s father was not something that I’m used to seeing. I knew that they wouldn’t be as openly emotional about my letter so I took this into mind while writing it. While writing, I tried to emphasize the fact that I know they are not so excited about me leaving, what exactly rites of passage and separation are, and just how much studying abroad means to me.
I made sure that I sat down with my dad and uncle before leaving their house for the last time and emphasized that this was important to me and that they had to take it seriously, as they often joke about things. To illustrate what rites of separation are, I thought it would be helpful to use the diagrams we were shown on the powerpoint at the workshop in December. I figured if they could see it instead of just having it explained to them, my point would be made more effectively. My priority was making sure that they understood that separation is good and that they can help support me through my journey in a way that doesn’t necessarily keep drawing me back in to the structure and safety of home. I told them that instead of trying to make me laugh with jokes about the things I’m doing abroad, they need to make me feel heard and validate what I’m going through. Then, I wanted to help them understand what studying abroad means to me, so I read them this quote from Miriam Beard: “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” This quote simply and effectively explains what the study abroad experience means to me. It’s more than just going to class in a foreign country; its about me feeding my desire to travel and see the world, as well as a way for me to immerse myself in other cultures and through discovering new places, discover new things about myself. Ultimately, my dad and uncle were very understanding, although they still joked around a bit, and promised to keep being two of my biggest supporters and help me in any way they can while I’m gone. It felt nice to get somewhat emotional with them because usually they deflect and act like the stoic men they are.
While that experience eased some of my worries about going away, I am still somewhat overwhelmed. Mostly because of the amount of packing I have to do and the friends and family I have to say goodbye to. For me, the moment of saying goodbye is harder than the separation itself. I am a very emotional person and in those highly emotional situations, I get easily worked up. I know that as I spend my last days with my friends and family before my trip, I will probably be upset and probably be crying. However, once I step foot on the plane I know I will be completely overcome with excitement and anticipation. My nerves most likely come from the fact that I have never been away from home and totally on my own for this long of a period of time. Even when I’m at Quinnipiac, I’m home at least once a month, so that will be a big adjustment for me. Despite that, I also think this will help me become even more independent and strong, which is something I look forward to. For me, a successful experience abroad will be one where I become immersed in my host culture and discover things about myself like a newfound sense of independence.
So as I finally start packing and as my departure date creeps up on me, I know that when the time comes I will be ready to face the challenges that lie ahead of me and embrace my new life abroad. What I think most prepares me is my open-mindedness. As Slimbach says in Becoming World Wise, “…we must be able to think new and old thoughts, to experience new and old emotions, at a minimum, that we will have learned to adjust our own behavior so it doesn’t unsettle, confuse, or offend others.” I am certain that I will be able to healthfully separate from my home community and use my open-minded nature to help become integrated and adjusted in my new environment.
The photo I chose to describe my journey to date is a picture of the boardwalk in my hometown of Rockaway Beach/Belle Harbor. This boardwalk, like me, has been through many hardships but has always come back stronger than before. The sunset represents that although my time at home is ending and I’m leaving all that is familiar to me, I will remain optimistic and always see the light on the horizon to help get through any challenges and make the most out of all of my new experiences. The beach has also always been one of my favorite places to think and reflect, and I know I will be doing a lot of reflecting while abroad. Overall, this photo is the perfect demonstration of how although I may feel overwhelmed and nervous at times, I will always look on the bright side and use my strength to get past any hardships and only have good times on this amazing journey I’m about to embark on.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub. LLC., 2010. Print.