Stretch your limits. Push yourself. Find new horizons. We’re all familiar with these overused, cheesy sayings. We roll our eyes at that person we follow on Instagram that never fails to update the world on his fitness progress: “I didn’t get this way on accident. I got here because I PUSHED myself everyday #NoPainNoGain.” Though it’s easy to dismiss these sayings as trite, studying abroad is really a series of stretching your limits in different ways. If you ever choose to study abroad, or really just embark upon any unknown adventure, you will most likely be uncomfortable a lot of the time. But what I’ve realized is that when we change our thinking, discomfort doesn’t have to be uncomfortable… in the usual sense of the word. Instead of being afraid of the confusion and failure that often accompany uncomfortable situations, we can see these situations as opportunities for growth. We can choose to accept the fact that being uncomfortable is a part of life and let that discomfort help us.
Discomfort is when you get on a metro car and there are so many people smushed inside it that only the really high railing to hold onto is available. So, you grab on, your sweaty, post-workout armpit waving valiantly in the air like a show and tell item. You’re quite literally back to front with a stranger, your face so close to the back of his head you could quite literally lick his ear. (But you don’t cuz that’s not ok.) It’s these uncomfortable situations where we can choose to be annoyed and impatient, or we can choose to be grateful that the stranger in front of us has good hygiene. No, but on a more serious note: we can choose to be grateful that we have the means of getting from point A to B, whether that be with working limbs or a functioning public transportation systems.
Discomfort is taking a dance class for the first time even when you know that embarrassing yourself and others is your only skill when it comes to dance. It’s giggling when the dance teacher tells everyone to make their sexy, I don’t take s*** from anybody face, and then doing it and giving it your all. Discomfort is being so confused about the choreography that you only know the first 3 and last 3 steps (that way you at least start and end the dance correctly) but still having fun with it and MOST definitely being able to laugh at yourself.
Discomfort is being in a country where the language spoken is not your native tongue. It’s so easy to allow that discomfort to swallow you up inside and create so much fear in you that you choose to stop speaking the language all together. But making mistakes is as much a part of learning a language as is studying the different verb tenses. So what if you called a Spanish medical office and you couldn’t remember whether “resfrío” or “resfriado” was the word for “a cold”, so they switched to speaking to you in English. You tried, right? You didn’t let fear of discomfort prevent you from calling.
Here’s to slowly becoming comfortable being uncomfortable, and loving each hiccup along the way.