One common piece of advice about studying abroad is to “step out of your comfort zone.” For some, going abroad is a huge step, but I have felt at home since I arrived in Madrid. Perhaps it’s that I’m a native Spanish speaker and haven’t had trouble expressing myself, or that my Latin American culture does not feel that different from Spanish culture, or that my homestay is in the middle of downtown Madrid making the city girl in me feel right in her zone every day.
Whatever the reason, it became clear that in order to find discomfort I was going to have to do more than just “go abroad.” I’m not saying everyone who studies abroad should seek discomfort, because you should do what’s best for you, but I have found throughout my life that when I seek discomfort, I always experience personal growth and that’s why it’s important to constantly challenge myself.
So, I found an urban dance studio in La Latina and signed up to take weekly dance classes for the semester. I usually try things at least once before committing to them, but I decided not to do that this time and just see what happened. When I was in high school, I was part of a competitive dance team so I figured this wouldn’t be so bad, surely, I could go back to dancing the way I used to before I started college. Except not really.
My first week at the studio was challenging (to say the least). Turns out, these classes are way more advanced than I thought, and mostly everyone who takes them is training to become a professional dancer (or is already a professional dancer). After that first week, I felt like I made a mistake and spent my extra-curricular money in something I couldn’t do for the rest of the semester. After some weekend reflection, I decided this was my moment to welcome discomfort, and so I did.
It’s been eight weeks since I began classes and I would be lying if I said I no longer struggle with choreography, but I feel much more comfortable dancing than I did eight weeks ago. I’m slowly witnessing my growth not just when I dance, but my confidence and trust in myself are growing too. No longer do I fear the last thirty minutes of class when we get put into small groups to perform in front of the entire class, and I feel less intimidated by all the skilled dancers around me. I’ve gotten so comfortable in these classes than I now take several each week, some weeks I even take one class per day. I’m definitely far from becoming a professional dancer, but hey, I’ve learned to laugh at myself and welcome the failure when I mess up the choreography, because at the end of the day dancing should be about having a good time and I’m not going to let a little discomfort keep me from that.