By Alice Wang, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, winner of the 2017 Stories from Abroad Scholarship and a member of the BC Study Abroad Writer in Residence Team
As I sign off on my time being a Writer-in-Residence for BC Study Abroad, I am thankful for this opportunity to reflect, so profoundly, about my travel abroad. This prolonged self-reflection has allowed for a soul-searching that yielded more meaning-making than I could have ever anticipated. It was Andrew Solomon who once said to overcome adversity, one must “forge meaning and build identity.”
Of course, on many levels, what I had experienced cannot be construed as adversity. But I would argue that if one is generous about the sheer amount of toll a body must undergo in the experience of exhaustion and loneliness, then anxiety during travelling can indeed be considered as an adversity. In earlier blog posts, I have shared my thoughts on travelling with anxiety—largely self-induced due to concern for safety, finances, food, and isolation—so I will not summarize them here but suffice it to say, pretty much throughout my entire trip, there were more moments of me wishing to go home than there were of pure joy. By the last week of the trip, I had to force myself to leave the hostel, push myself through the Venice Biennale which was an art event I had wanted to see for years, and remind myself that this trip was not a vacation but work (I was searching for inspiration for my MA thesis) to give myself permission to be disgruntled. In many ways, I am glad I persevered because despite not having a good time, one the art works I brought my weary body to see did change me. That one work made a day worth it.
So, what I am saying is this: find a way to constructively reflect on your trip. By constructively, I mean come to term even with the negative things that have happened on the trip and see the silver lining in them. Shitty things will stay shitty unless meaning is forged through them. Then they become less shitty thereby easier to own as part of one’s identity. I hated admitting that I felt largely disappointed by my trip but upon forging meaning through them, I was able to distil why certain things were bad and learn from them. This summer I will be travelling to the UK and Sweden to do some graduate research. I look forward to applying what I have learned from my last trip to brace myself for both the good and the bad to come.
Many thanks for your readership. I wish you the best of luck in your travels and hope you find within you what you were looking for.