Leaving your comfort zone can be educational

In 9th grade I wrote a poem about the fear and anxiety I had for the unknown. I think a lot of people, like my 9th grade self, are afraid of the unknown. Whether it be the deep blue unknown abyss of the eerily tranquil sea or the possibility that a petty crush on someone will fulfill all of your expectations, the unknown is scary because we don’t know what to expect. It can be good or it can be bad; it can be our worst nightmare or just a normal waking day. 

There is no doubt though, that being scared to step out of our comfort zone limits us as humans. Despite the possible downfalls of trying new things, forcing yourself to step out of your comfort zone is thrilling. Those who are offered to take a trip abroad with a group of strangers may turn it down out of fear of being in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people and because it will be different from what they are used to. Obviously there is also the fear of getting kidnapped by the group of strangers, but I digress. Instead of being held back by fear, we should put on our explorer hats and venture into the unknown for the sake of the thrill.

I did just that this summer by agreeing to travel to a little town in the Dominican Republic with a group of 16 students from across Northern California and the east coast of the United States. I went through the Global Glimpse program whose mission is to teach high school students about the importance of being a global citizen. Upon arriving in the Dominican Republic, I told myself that I wanted to feel uncomfortable on this trip. And boy did my wish come true.

I experienced discomfort in so many ways as the two weeks passed. I felt humiliation on days that we were expected to teach English to Dominican teenagers. I felt stress and worry trying come up with a captivating lesson plan to entertain 16, 17, and 18 year olds. I felt lost amidst all of the Spanish that everyone in the country spoke while I only had level 3 Spanish skills. I felt alone with my thoughts when trying to sleep at night because we were forced to disconnect from all internet devices. But through all this I felt connected to and loved by the small Dominican children who attempted to understand my limited words as they asked me for stickers and showed me their ability to recite all of the colors in English. I formed a friendship with the roommate sleeping five feet away from me as we bonded through stories and restrained laughter. And I felt inspired and enlightened by the people of the poverty-stricken towns we visited who demonstrated the values of hard-work and giving aid to one another. 

For those of us who usually turn down new adventures, I challenge you to put yourself in a potentially uncomfortable situation and take notice of the great things that you learn from it. But if you end up getting kidnapped by a group of strangers, please do not sue me.

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