As I sat in the airport awaiting my flight from Newark, New Jersey to Barcelona, Spain, I switched between both of my parents’ contacts trying to decide who I should call to pick me up. I tried to weigh my options to decide who would have a nicer reaction to having to come get me before I even got on my flight to my five week dialogue, a short-term study abroad program through Northeastern. There had been delay after delay, and the more time I spent sitting on the linoleum floor, the more I wanted to be in the comfort of my own home.
I am not good at trying new things. I am extremely comfortable in my comfort zone, which was part of why the dialogue originally appealed to me; I thought if I forced myself to do something then maybe it would be better than I ever expected. What I didn’t realize was how much I actually wanted to stay comfortable. I was extremely willing to push back against myself in the form of sabotage. Getting on the plane was genuinely one of the biggest battles I have ever had with myself. But, ultimately, the part of me that was itching for new experiences and possibilities won, and I am so grateful it did.
I spent five weeks in Barcelona having the absolute time of my life. I met people I never would have if I had not gone on the trip, and we all bonded incredibly quickly. I ate the best food I have ever tasted, got to explore the beautiful architecture and danced away every night I could with some of the coolest people I have ever met. While our professors gave us some grief, I learned a lot simply by talking to locals, and my Spanish-speaking skills improved exponentially. All the different backgrounds and experiences our group brought, from our in-class lessons to conversations over dinner, taught me an incredible amount, as well.
This five-week trip changed me more than I ever expected it would. I came back feeling like a completely different, more actualized and confident version of myself. Even though I had such a great group, I spent a lot of time in Barcelona by myself and practiced a lot of mindfulness; I would sit in squares and plazas and just listen and observe, which grounded me within myself and allowed for a lot of personal reflection. I also definitely improved my relaxation skills as Spaniards are undoubtedly some of the best teachers in this way of life.
But, more than anything, I was so proud of myself just for getting on that plane in the first place, traveling halfway across the world with a group of 16 people I had never met in my life and saying yes to almost every opportunity that came my way. If I had never opened myself up by forcing myself out of my comfort zone, I would be a very different person than the one who wrote this article today. To anyone considering some form of study abroad experience or something uncomfortable that is smaller or seemingly less significant, my advice is to push yourself to try it. Despite the discomfort and resistance you may feel, you never know how much could come out of one “yes.”