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Sunday, June 16, 2024
The Observer

Leaving my comfort zone

Hallo again from Innsbruck! My first semester here has just ended and a much-needed month long break has started. (The semester timing in Austria is different than the timing in the United States.)

Here’s a small list of what have I learned this semester: how to navigate through airports and train stations, how to be stranded, how to live in a small city, how to travel alone, how to choose courage and how to be alone.

These are things I probably would not have learned at home, whether at Saint Mary’s or in my hometown. I am a fan of my comfort zone. I like my nice little box of places I know and people I know. Studying abroad in Innsbruck has truly forced me out of that box in a way that going to college last year didn’t.

Saint Mary’s is only 45 minutes from my hometown. I can get home by car or by train. I saw my family probably once a month last year. One of my best friends from high school, by chance, also decided to attend Saint Mary’s so I already had a friend when I arrived at SMC. So, while going to college was scary, I wasn’t really that far outside of my comfort zone.

Here, I am a nine-hour flight away from home. I haven’t seen my family since I left in September, my friends since August and won’t see most of them again until July. I came to Innsbruck knowing no one. While I do have the benefit of having an old host family from an exchange program I took part in during high school, they don’t live in Innsbruck.

Being out of my comfort zone has helped me to be more adaptable. Traveling is learning how to go with the flow. Every time I have made travel plans, something has gone awry whether it be as simple as having to stand on a two-hour train ride or as complicated as delayed trains and trying to catch your connecting train. It’s again an utter act of trust and faith. I’ve learned that, somehow, the traveling problems will work themselves out. Worrying about them only hinders my ability to adapt to the new situation.

And here at the end of this semester, just as I had gotten used to how life is in Innsbruck, it’s changing again. Some people in the program left to go back to the U.S. Several more people are coming to join the program.

Through all of this, I’m realizing that the best personal growth really does only happen by going through the hard stuff, by leaving the comfort zone that I love so much. Change is hard, but the discovery of what I can do that I didn’t know before is better.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.