When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone? What I mean to ask is when was the last time you did something that really made you nervous, something you spent late nights worrying about? Something you wanted to push yourself to do, but kept changing your mind because of a gut feeling telling you to stay in your comfort zone?
My Comfort Zone
Last summer, in 2016, I made the decision to study and intern abroad in Uganda. Prior to making this decision, I had never travelled abroad on my own for an extended period of time. This would be my first experience studying abroad, and my first time on the African continent.
There was exhilaration in picking up and leaving for a term abroad, but at the same time, I was making up every possible excuse to not go. I was worried about the costs, safety, and health. I was also not looking forward to convincing my Mom on letting me go to Uganda (good news: with extensive persuasion, she did, in fact, come around).
My comfort zone was Vancouver, B.C., where I had grown up and spent my whole life aside from touristy vacations with my family. Travel was never a big part of my life, and it was not something I had thought about doing before realizing I could gain meaningful experience while doing so. I never thought about or realized the personal and professional growth one could acquire from travelling.
I was presented with an opportunity that was plunging me outside of my comfort zone, and soon afterwards, somewhere in me, a switch went off. I was stuck in a routine of going to school, work, and doing nothing out of the ordinary that was going to help me stand out after graduation. Suddenly, it clicked that this was an opportunity I couldn't let slide by. If I wanted to add something exceptional to my resume, I needed to do this.
I was sitting in class during a presentation by an Insight representative. I opened up a new tab, hopped onto the website, and browsed around at the opportunity. The tab stayed open for a few weeks until I decided to apply for the program. I was convinced primarily because, like I said above, I was telling myself that I had to do something different, but also because a classmate was applying for the semester abroad and I felt that if she could do it, so could I.
Worth the Fear and Anxiousness? Absolutely.
Going abroad, living in Kampala, interning in a developing country - none of this was part of my comfort zone. I was exhilerated by the idea of travelling across the world, and being able to study and intern there, but a huge part of me was beyond terrified.
However, somewhere in all of the fear and anxiousness, a part of me knew that this was only going to help me grow in all aspects of my life. If I didn't do it now, I was afraid I would never muster up the courage to do it. There were several times prior to departing for the program when I felt like backing out and cancelling the trip. Only when my flight was booked, internship placement sorted, and acceptance letter from Makerere University was in my hands, did I feel the realities of what I was about to do.
The obstacles and the personal growth began from there on out as I missed a few details in preparation for leaving. But finally, four flights and 3 days later, I arrived in beautiful Kampala to join the Semester In Development Fall 2016 cohort.
Step outside of your busy day, and think about exploring new opportunitites within fields you genuinely enjoy. Yes, stepping outside of your weekly norms by starting a new job, or pursuing an internship or travel opportunity can be a very, very scary thing, but the outcome is almost always worth it. Chances are, it'll help you build character and add to your personal growth.
Start small, things like entering your research paper into a contest, or signing up for a salsa class could be things far out of your comfort zone. Work your way up from there, overcome your fears, and experience the most exhilerating opportunities of them all: travelling abroad. Travelling can help you become globally aware, can help build your confidence, sense of self, and can teach you valuable lessons about the person you want to be.