I have always felt a strong desire to travel and see the world, and I have struggled somewhat through the years on my road towards discovering who I am. I have always looked at the study abroad experience as one that could fulfill both my wanderlust, and my need to find myself. The workshop made me realize this even more as we began to look at the study abroad experience through the lens of a rite of passage. By learning about the different stages of a rite of passage (Separation, Liminal, Incorporation), I now see myself as a liminoid going through these stages and while I am abroad I will be in this state of Liminality where I will guide myself, along with the help of a mentor, through the process and grow and learn about myself as a person while traveling and seeing more of the world as I’ve always wanted. The experience has become much more to me than just going to another country to take university credit electives.
In Becoming World Wise, Richard Slimbach brings up this point about making the study abroad experience as significant and meaningful as possible. In the introduction to the book, Slimbach writes, “Without the requisite understandings and skills to learn with and form those in our field setting, we will tend to accumulate novel experiences but without stepping much outside our comfort zones. When this ‘cocooning’ occurs, we can’t expect much deep learning to take place.” This particularly resonated with me because in the workshop we discussed how important it is to step outside of our comfort zones while abroad in order to get through the separation and liminal phases of our rite of passage. If we focus too much on what we left behind and hide in the comfort of family and friends through staying at home on Skype, we will never be able to grow and move on to the next phases of our journeys. At times, I have found it difficult to step out of my comfort zone. So while abroad, my goal is to prevent the “cocooning” that Slimbach talks about from occurring and I will try to remain open-minded to as many new experiences as possible. I want to absorb as much as I can of my new environments and learn as much as I can about the cultures different from my own because then I can begin to self-reflect, which is another important concept in rites of passage, and as a result grow as a person.
Slimbach also spends a large portion of the introduction talking about how studying abroad should not only benefit the student. He writes, “Ultimately, that is why we cross the boundaries of nation, culture, religion, and social class: to create what Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam calls ‘bridging capital’ – acts of friendship and solidarity rooted in a common reverence for human dignity, local knowledge, and the moral good.” In the workshop, we talked about how our rites of passage should not only benefit ourselves, but the community as well. To me, that community should be the one you are entering as you study abroad, as well as the one you are returning to at home at the end of your program. Those acts mentioned in the quote from Slimbach, as well as the acts of community service he mentions, are ways that myself and others can benefit our communities while abroad and upon returning home. While there, we can volunteer and reach out to others in order to integrate ourselves further into our host communities and make new connections and good friends. Upon returning home, we can help “local knowledge” by speaking to our loved ones about our experiences and passing what we have learned on to them so that they can become more informed and wiser. As we learned, your loved ones are a part of your experience and you should keep them informed and continue to include them as you go through your journey, instead of cutting them out completely.
The travelogue I have chosen to read is My Love Affair With England: A Traveller’s Memoir by Susan Allen Toth. Although it is on the older side, I had a hard time finding books on Amazon that appealed to me, and that I felt like I could relate to, until I read about Toth. She is an American journalist that fell in love with England after travelling there, and continued to visit throughout her adult life, and had a wide variety of interesting and amazing experiences that she details in the book. As an aspiring journalist, and as someone returning to London after visiting years ago, I felt as though I could relate in a way to Toth and her memoir.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub. LLC., 2010. Print.
Toth, Susan Allen. My Love Affair with England. New York: Ballantine, 1992. Print.