Travel Log 3: “Betwixt and Between… so this is Liminality” by Samantha Prevot. Notting Hill, London, England

The word I keep using to describe my experience in London so far is “surreal”. The dorm/house/apartment building (I’m not quite sure what to call it) that I’m living in is in Notting Hill, a very “posh” part of London, where my neighbor two doors down is designer Stella McCartney, around the corner is Jude Law’s house, and just up the road is Kensington Palace, the home of Prince William, Princess Kate, their children George and Charlotte, and Prince Harry. So far, we’ve been on a few walking tours of the city, and I’ve gotten to see so many historical places and famous monuments and attractions like Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and so many more. As I walk down the streets and see how extremely well the old as been preserved and integrated with the new, I can only look on in awe. There have been many moments where I’ve just had to pinch myself. “Is this really happening?” I think to myself. Although I know deep down that everything I am experiencing is 100% real, I am still going through my days with a slightly-numb feeling that comes with the shock of temporarily moving to one of the most amazing cities in the world.

Saying goodbye to my parents at the airport was difficult, but as soon as I was on my own I felt fine. I have been keeping in touch with them through texts, and so far one FaceTime call per parent, but I don’t feel as sad and dependent on them as I did in those initial moments at JFK. Because I have a UK SIM card and Internet acc

ess, I think my separation has been (relatively) painless since I know that I don’t have to constantly be in touch with my parents and talk to them as much as I usually do, but the option is there if I really need them. I have also

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at JFK before departing for London

remained incredibly distracted over the past week with all of the orientation events that have been going on with my program, IFSA-Butler, and with City University.

 

 

In addition to that, I definitely think my transition has been easier because I have been to London before, and culturally it is similar in a lot of ways to the United States, especially my hometown of New York City. I am very used to the hustle and bustle of a large city; being surrounded by many people from many different nationalities, taking public transportation, the large buildings and bright lights, and all the other things that come with city life. While some of the other students in my program are struggling with the London Underground and figuring out how to commute to our school, I feel like I’m back in high school again when I was commuting to and from school every single day. However, I do find myself comparing New York City and London a lot, and I think that’s not always the best thing. In Becoming World Wise, Slimbach quotes “intercultural expert” Janet Bennett (1998). She says, “At one and the same time, we value our old belief system as well as adaptation to the new; we seek a way to survive within our former worldview, and yet recognize the necessity for a new perspective … It is not merely ‘not knowing what to do,’ but it is more a case of not being able to do what one has come to value doing” (p.218). This quote really resonated with me because I think sometimes I am dwelling too much on my old belief system and trying to see London as New York when in reality they are two very different cities and I need to start seeing them that way instead of complaining that the Underground doesn’t run all night like the NYC subway system and that stores close too early. New York may be known as “The City That Never Sleeps” but London is definitely a city that sleeps. So my goal is to try to stop myself from making these comparisons and just enjoying London for what it is and learn how to adapt and not only live, but thrive in my new home with this new perspective.

In our workshop, we defined communitas as the group of people that are your “fellow liminoids”, going through a similar separation process and in a communitas all of the members are there to help get each other through challenges and make their rites of passage be as successful as possible. Slimbach says that communitas is “double-edged” because “Although it may provide vital social support, it can easily lead to stagnation in terms of cultural adjustment and learning”. I think I have found a group of girls in my program that make up my

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my communitas of girls from the IFSA program

communitas, and while I have spent a lot of time with them I haven’t let them hold me back in any way. I think we have found a good balance in the fact that we are all comfortable doing things on our own such as going to the university for meetings or going shopping or just walking around our neighborhood, but at the same time we have also done things together that help us get to know our surroundings better like going out to pubs and clubs. I have always prided myself on the fact that I am very comfortable traveling alone and successfully navigating in unfamiliar places, and that combined with my comfort in big cities has made the transition smooth and my reliance on my communitas not as great. I think I have found myself in a place where I am very happy and comfortable in my new city that I’m worried I will suddenly be overcome with homesickness and have somewhat of a setback. But let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

 

Slimbach also talks about finding ways to cultivate a network of “close-knit and supportive [international] friends”. I think I am in a unique situation because I am very active on social media and over the years I have made friends with people who live in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe such as France. When they found out about my plans to study abroad, they all offered to make plans to see me, or offered to show me around their home countries if I travel there. In fact, I am making plans for this weekend to see my friend that attends Middlesex University in London, although she is originally from Poland. I am hoping that connections like these will be a way for me to build this network that Slimbach refers to and that they will help me feel more integrated into the London culture.

The picture below was taken while I was on a walk with my friend who also goes to Quinnipiac and is doing the same program as me. It was one of the most memorable moments from my trip so far. We started out in Oxford Circus and walked our way down through Piccadilly Circus, past Buckingham Palace, through narrow streets and a residential area, down to the River Thames and over a bridge that had one of the most amazing views of Big Ben, Parliament, the London Eye, etc. I had ever seen. Plus, we got to the bridge around sunset, which added to the view’s beauty. This was where my astonishment came in about the integration of the old and new; blocks of old Victorian houses have remained in beautiful condition while just down the road brand new flats are being built, and nothing feels out of place. As I walked down the streets, I looked at all of these old homes, shops, cafes, etc., snuggled up against one another and I couldn’t help but feel like I was being pulled into them, as though they were welcoming me in a way. I have always felt a connection to this city since my first visit four years ago, and now it feels stronger than ever since I will be living here until April.

I think this picture best describes my journey so far because it showcases the beauty of London that has really captured my heart. It is also somewhat of a symbol of my journey because although I have been here before and had the chance to explore a bit in the past week, there is so much of this city that I haven’t seen yet and as I look down the river, I see all of the possibilities in front of me and I become even more excited for the weeks to come. Although I know that I will have to make more adjustments in order to fully become a member of the culture here and that I will most likely face more challenges in the next few weeks, I feel happy and optimistic because I know I will be able to overcome and make the most out of my somewhat short time here.15977370_10206810594657087_8748760816688353434_n

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Travel Log 2: “Looking Behind and Looking Ahead” by Samantha Prevot. Belle Harbor, New York

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.

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photos with my dad and uncle from the photobooth at my cousin’s quinceanera

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.

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Works Cited:

Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub. LLC., 2010. Print.

Travel Log 2: “Rites of Separation: Looking Behind and Looking Ahead: Expecting and Accepting the Unexpected” by Erin Schirra. Manila, Philippines

Separation: an action that describes the removal of an object or a being from its normal surroundings. I have always assigned a negative connotation to this word, as it has preceded the start of some of my most difficult moments in my life. Whether it is separation of a loved one as they travel, or separation of a loved one from this earth after their passing, hearing the word usually makes my heart drop half of an inch.

My past history with separation, in turn, did not leave me excited when I read the assignment details for this activity. Instead of dealing with separation, I tend to not think it through, and even to pretend like it doesn’t exist until I do not have to deal with it anymore. Sometimes, I fill the time of the separation with mindless activities, or throw myself into my involvements. Other times, I take the pain produced by the separation and funnel it to be able to emphasize with others around me that are feeling deeper pain. This is what I noted most before I shared my Letter of Separation. I decided to share this with my best friend from home, two days before I left for the Philippines, in her car, which was in my driveway (where I have all of my life talks with my closest friends). I figured that the familiarity of my surroundings would assist in my troubled track record with separation, and that the timing would allow for both of us to digest the separation before I actually left.

The actual sharing of the Letter of Separation was not as difficult as I anticipated it to be. Not only was this a much more planned out separation than any I had previously partaken in, but also it contained an educational depth unique to the experience that added to the ease. Being able to explain the utilization of the separation to enhance both of our overall growth gave the separation more meaning, allowing for an emotionally difficult process to transform into a productive experience.

The quote that I used to help convey abroad opportunities is one from the workshop and from Slimbach’s 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” (164). I selected this to assist in both of our understandings of the educational components of the separation. This quote also describes the synergism between the new and the old, and how ultimate success stems from optimizing the relationship between the two.

At this point, I feel as though I am as ready as I could possibly be for separation of all that is familiar and known. Having departed from the United States for a new country just one week ago, I already feel as though I have separated from everyone outside of my family. This has been a particularly unique experience, however, as I am undergoing multiple separations in a short period of time. Just as I am getting used to my surroundings in the Philippines, I am preparing to leave for yet another country. Last night, I had to separate from my Grandparents, one that was much more difficult because the time that we will reunite is much less known and stable. I think that my nerves truly stem from being away from my parents and brothers for so long, and that these nerves are what stand between my partial and complete mental preparedness. I do not think that these nerves are great enough, however, to taint an otherwise healthy separation.

I think that a successful education abroad experience will be one of significant growth, enhanced awareness to surroundings, increased problem solving, and openness to challenges. An unsuccessful abroad experience would result in shying away from new experiences, turning towards pre-separation means of comfort, and closing oneself off to potential friendships and the new culture. The best means of measuring this success on a personal level will be through weekly reflection and assessment at the end of the semester.

I am ready for and looking forward to the expected and unexpected, and I plan on using my desire for adventure and underlying drive of this trip to push myself into the new and unknown. I also think that the more I keep in mind how lucky I am to partake in this trip, the more I will be open to trying as much as I possibly can. I am looking forward to experiencing the diversity of my surroundings, lifestyle, and friendships, all while keeping in mind the lessons I have learned from that of my past.

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This picture is of my brother Stephen and I during my very first day at Quinnipiac. We had just moved all of my belongings in, and we were headed to pick up my QCard in the student center. I was both terrified and excited, more than I had ever been in my entire life. My feelings on this first day parallel those I am currently feeling: nervous to embark on these beginnings, and excited for the new adventures that are on the way.

Works Cited

Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.

Travel Log 1: “Laying a Foundation” by Erin Schirra Baguio, Philippines

After the workshop, there were two main concepts that resonated with me, at least to the point where I brought up these concepts to others around me, such as my friends and family, to discuss and gain their viewpoints. One of these points was simply the word ‘liminality.’ In addition to the concept itself intriguing me, I really liked how the word sounded, and I could not help but allow it to creep around my brain and into my conversations with people outside of the class. This in-between state is something that I usually yearn for, and encourage those around me that are growing, to desire as well. Being uncomfortable, having heightened awareness, and feeling like you need to find out where you belong is not an easy state to be in, and it scares people back into a state that feels more safe, secure, or familiar. I always attributed my love for this uncomfortable feeling as my constant thirst for growth. I think that this is why I tend to find new challenges once I begin to feel comfortable again, and I know this is why I decided to study abroad.

When I am feeling that glorious mixture of nervous, scared, excitement streaming through my blood vessels, diffusing into every cell of my body and replacing the bored redundancy of the past, I know that something big is on its way. It is the way that I felt that morning of the first day of freshman year of high school, the way I felt as we drove down Mount Carmel Ave. to move in to my freshman year residential hall, and the way that I felt as I boarded my plane on Seattle the other day to get on a flight to Hong Kong and begin my next journey. This is my sign of what I previously though was just a bigger experience ahead, and now think of as a staple of the beginnings of liminality. Finally being able to put a name on my love of feeling ‘betwixt and between’ got me excited at the workshop. Being able to place actions and emotions from my past and present into the box of liminality got me excited every day afterwards.

The second concept that resonated with me allowed me to feel some comfort in all of the feelings that run deep in liminality, and that was the concept of communitas. Knowing that there are so many other Bond exchange students that are fellow liminites is an encouraging factor to withstand feelings of discomfort and fear. As much as embracing these feelings attributes to overall growth, it can also result in running away from the source of said feelings or closing oneself off to experiencing anything new. I think that in knowing many students around me are experiencing liminality similar to myself, I will be comforted and feel less alone.

I found the introduction of Slimbach to be intriguing, especially in its parallels to the concepts of Rights of Passage as discussed in the workshop. When he states, “[o]ne of the great joys of educational travel, in whatever form, is to experience familiar things within an unfamiliar context” (Slimbach, 5). This familiarity, as driven by the ever-increasing expansion of consumer goods and spreading of traditions as brought on by travel and tourism, is a portion of the grand scheme of liminality. Living in between two worlds encourages the experiences of everything- familiar or not, in an unfamiliar world. Shortly after Slimbach discusses this concept, he states, “[w]e construct a self that can bridge the chasms that divide us and contribute something of enduring value to others” (5).  I think that this quote speaks more to reincorporation. By using the power of liminality to foster growth and development of a new mind or being, one going through reincorporation must allow immersion back into the initial community. The most beneficial way of reincorporating is to form this bridge and find a way to bring growth back into the community and the individuals that compose it, without criticizing or trying to merge the two communities as one.

The travelogue that I selected was Keep Australia On Your Left: A True Story of an Attempt to Circumnavigate Australia by Kayak, by Eric Stiller. I selected this because it had a funny tone to it after reading the short summary provided online. It also shows this man’s adventurous journey. One of my goals in Australia is to embrace every possible adventure, whether it be in kayaking, hiking, or taking surf lessons. I hope that in reading this travelogue, not only will I learn more about my host country, but also I will be inspired to take more of these adventures on.

Works Cited

Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.

Stiller, Eric. Keep Australia on Your Left: A True Story of an Attempt to Circumnavigate Australia by Kayak. Sydney: Bantam, 2000. Print.