Last Updated on October 9, 2014 by
Facing my latest fear of jumping out of a plane over Cape Town
Just today, someone asked me what has been the best part about being abroad. I had to think for a moment. Yes, traveling somewhere different every weekend is nice, and yes, getting to feed elephants is pretty cool, but what has been the thing that has impacted me the most?
The thing that came to my mind was doing things that scare me. Yes, it sounds funny that one would enjoy that, but just hear me out.
First, making the decision to go to a foreign country for an extended period of time, away from close friends and family is scary in itself. Anyone who chooses to take that leap is already well on their way to doing something scary!
When you are in a situation that is unfamiliar, it forces you to be independent in the sense that you must adapt and learn to make decisions on your own; you are utilizing a part of yourself that we aren’t used to using. We love what’s familiar and it’s our tendency to choose something that we are accustomed to over what we are not. While being here, I’ve realized how much of a tendency I have to do this. It wasn’t until I was truly put in a brand new situation that I understood how empowering it is to have to rely solely on myself.
Since being in a different environment, I have come to understand who I am out of the context in which I normally define myself. A person very important to me showed me that we all have traits that are true to the essence of us. No matter where we are or whom we are with, they don’t change. Being in a completely different place with completely different people has helped me realize what those traits are and to be proud of them.
Not only have I started to learn more about myself, but I’ve started to learn more about what I am capable of. Once you step out of your comfort zone, it becomes addictive. What would have scared the heck out of me before, like bungee jumping, or skydiving, or perhaps something more serious like asking a person a controversial question about his or her culture, are no longer scary feats, but instead opportunities for growth.
So when anyone asks what I feel has been the most impactful part of being abroad, I can’t mention just one experience or one moment; it’s been the learning and the realizations that have come from the culmination of so many experiences. I’ve found that the more I do things that scare me, the fewer the things there are that scare me anymore. I will always remember South Africa as a place that has both challenged me and empowered me to discover who I am and what I am capable of.