Remember way back when we were little kids starting school and our parents told us it was time to branch out and make some new friends? Whether or not a person is shy or outgoing, branching out is always an opportunity. What kind of opportunity this branching out turns out to be is completely up to the individual, but an opportunity is made to be taken, right?
Being from a small town in Northern Maine, I may be biased in this category. I also think it gave me an advantage in my efforts to branch out. Growing up with friends I went to preschool with was, for the most part, pretty cool. That didn’t stop me from spending most of my adolescent years eager to move away, meet new people, and see what else there was to see. Who wasn’t excited to “grow up” when they were 13? No, I didn’t go far and wide, but as I move (too quickly) through my last year at UMaine, I’ve realized I didn’t need to go far and wide to meet new people, grow up a little bit, and branch out.
Firstly, there are so many people in the world. Lucky for us, for about eight months of the year we are brought into close proximity with individuals we would have never met otherwise. Taking advantage of this means we turn strangers into friends, experience new cultures, see from different perspectives, and always have a familiar face on the way to class.
Secondly, meeting all of these new people pushes us to venture out of our comfort zones. You know that corny quote that’s probably hanging in some classroom: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”? Yes it’s corny, but it’s also true.
“College didn’t change me, I’m just more myself now”
So how does a person branch out? When does the comfort zone end? When it comes to college years, going out of a comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean skydiving or studying abroad, although those definitely apply. For me, my comfort zone ended when I started doing more things independently. The more I relied on myself the more the more I tried new things and fell into the person I wanted to be. I introduced myself to people I always saw but never spoke to. I applied at a job where I didn’t know anyone currently working there. I read more books and wrote more articles. I challenged myself to be a better person. I left Maine for the summer. I put myself in situations that a year before would have made me feel nervous in my stomach and awkward about my movements. The point is that whatever the comfort zone was that I had in a particular situation, I made it a point to put myself outside of it. Like I said, I didn’t venture far and wide, I only moved two hours from home.
I didn’t do anything that the person next to me couldn’t do. However, branching out from the moment my time began at UMaine has led me to some of the best friends I’ve ever had, the most interesting people I’ve ever met, a challenging internship in a different state, studying skills I didn’t know I had, and in my four years here, I’ve learned a thing or two in my classes. The simple concept of “branching out” has led to me be more myself and confident in who that person is then if I had stayed in my comfort zone and shorted myself the opportunity to accomplish and learn everything I have in my time at UMaine.