The Positives of Experiencing (Even When The Experience is Negative)

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I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying this, but one of the major reasons students decide to study abroad is to engage with the new and do things you wouldn’t normally do (or would be unable to do) in your home country. Along with this comes the urge to experiment and challenge the you you already know: you’re in a completely unfamiliar world filled with new people and new sights. You can’t help but want to dive into that world and see how you react within it. I truly believe everyone feels this way while abroad. No one wants to stick to their daily routine while living in a foreign country! Of course, we can’t be going sightseeing and eating out every day (or even every weekend), but there certainly exists a drive to engage with the unfamiliar.

One of my recent experiences of these was when I went on a skiing/snowboarding trip with friends from my program. Granted, I have never experienced skiing or snowboarding, and, to be honest, I’ve never really had an interest to start it. But with the invitation from my roommate to go, and the fact that a lot of the people I’m closer too in the program were going, I decided to join in. The drive to experience overwhelmed me. I continuously thought to myself, “I’ve never done this before, but it’s going to be so fun! I’ll have a great time! If there was a time to try something like this, that time is now!”

Well, after that experience, I learned that skiing and snowboarding are not my thing. When using a snowboard, I couldn’t even stand up for five seconds, and although I was slightly better with skis, I had still fallen many times, and the fear of colliding into others at the lodge prevented me from continuing after skiing only twice. For the remainder of the trip, I remained inside, feeling pretty embarrassed and guilty for not spending time outside where everyone else was. I continued to tell myself that I had at least tried something new, and I learned that it wasn’t my thing. At least I tried it out! Something I never would have considered while in the US. While telling myself this did not lift my spirits up one hundred percent, it gave me the validation for my feelings needed in order to actually enjoy the trip versus wallowing in something I didn’t enjoy.

Mountain viewpoint overlooking the ski lodge. During the trip I also focused on things other than snowboarding and skiing, including the beautiful scenery and the hot springs I went to afterwards!

I wanted to share this story because I think it’s pretty common to hear about the positive new experiences while abroad, but the negative ones aren’t spoken of, especially in a positive light. I want to inform future students abroad that, while trying out new things is really important and one of the great aspects of studying abroad, it’s okay to not enjoy every experience. When that time comes around, reminding yourself that you got the courage to try something new and took the time and effort to experiment with something makes the experience a happier memory when looking back at your time abroad. After all, not every experience is going to be positive, but it doesn’t hurt to focus on the positives.