I remember my first few days of college so vividly that I can feel the same emotions right now as I think about it. It was so exciting to finally move in to the place that I had pictured as my future home for the majority of my high school years and I was ready to start something new. I remember feeling so nervous and anxious as I watched my family drive away from campus after dropping me off.
Those first few days were a rollercoaster of mixed emotions including feeling invincible one minute and experiencing an all consuming homesickness the next. As I navigated around a new city and tried to immerse myself into the friend groups forming rapidly around me, I felt lost. What was I supposed to do with all of my free time? Who was I supposed to hang out with? What activities were going to provide me with the “college experience” that everyone talks about? How could I figure out all of these things without my best friends and family?
After a few stressful weeks and settling into a new routine, I felt more comfortable in my environment and was happy that the adjustment period was over. As a person who has always thrived in situations that are familiar to me, I was perfectly content in my new-found comfort zone and had no intention of leaving…until a few months ago.
Much to the surprise of everyone around me, I decided a few years ago that I was going to study abroad because that seemed like the college thing to do. When I told my mom that I wanted to spend a summer in Denmark, she admired the arrival of an adventurous side to me but was skeptical I would follow through with it. And to be fair, so was I. Every part of my home-body self told me that it was a terrible idea because this 3 month trip away from everything I knew would prohibit my parents from being a 1.5 hour car ride away from me. Nevertheless, I was determined to prove to myself and others that I could take risks and be spontaneous.
When I first arrived in Copenhagen, the same anxiety-ridden emotions I had when I got to UW appeared in my new temporary home. In a new city, new apartment, new school, new people who I feared I wouldn’t connect with, and new culture again, I felt lost. The same questions ran through my head as I wondered if I made a huge mistake and should jump on the next plane back to the home that I love. The mask of pure excitement that I wore around everyone who asked about my summer plans started to disappear and seeing the liveliness of my peers in this program accentuated my feelings of loneliness.
I am now realizing that these overwhelming feelings of homesickness and uncomfortableness are all part of it. Staying in my comfort zone will not allow me to grow and develop – which is sort of the point of studying abroad, isn’t it? That’s what everyone says at least. Every time you talk to someone who has studied abroad, you hear the same story about how life-changing the experience was and I used to secretly roll my eyes at the cliché.
But it’s beginning to look like there is a good chance I will be reciting that same narrative to everyone who asks when I return home in August. I am not saying that this morning I woke up feeling like a whole new independent person, because I definitely am not that (yet?). But when I take a step back and think about everything so far that has happened during these last 2 weeks, I feel myself growing. And that’s a really exciting feeling that I hope continues to be present over the next few months.
To thank you for reading about my thoughts and experiences, I will leave you with a final cliché: I am getting more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.