Putting myself into new environments isn’t my favourite thing to do. I’m a bit of a homebody, and I like my comforts (old friends, familiar places, and cozy drinks).
But, when I actually stop and think about the best and most rewarding experiences I’ve had in the past few years, they all involved me stepping out of my comfort zone. And they all involved me feeling pretty uncomfortable somewhere along the way.
A few of my least favourite things
Without a doubt, the best decision I made at UBC was joining a co-op program. It wasn’t something I had even considered before coming here. I didn’t know of anyone who had been in the program or was planning on joining.
A student came in to talk about her co-op experience at the start of a class I was in, and on a whim I decided to show up to an info session. Without really thinking about it, I submitted an application, and soon after I got offered an interview for the program.
This is when the scope of what I signed up for began to hit me.
Joining the co-op program included a few of my least favourite things: conferences, networking, and group interviews. In theory, I would never in a MILLION YEARS willingly put myself through these things, and I dreaded each event as it approached.
But the co-op interview came and went...and it was fine. And the conferences happened, and I didn’t feel too awful afterwards. And I had to network a bit, but I actually talked to some cool people, and…maybe it wasn’t all that bad?
That’s a lie.
A lot of it was not fun and was a drag for me to get through. But these were necessary 'evils' that allowed me to land two different jobs that gave me some really awesome opportunities.
Getting diverse experiences in university is essential, and although I didn’t always enjoy the process, I also know that it was useful and necessary in the long run.
It gets (a little bit) better
Going in for an interview is still my absolute least favourite thing to do. I don’t like sitting in a room with a panel of people staring at me, and my mind seems to shut down when I’m asked to recall past events in an interview setting.
But it gets better every time I do it. I am able to make better eye contact, sit a little straighter, and trip over my words less often. These are subtle changes, but they are also noticeable.
As a kid, I used to fear going into a customer service job in the future because I was so nervous about talking to strangers (like, I actually used to have nightmares about this as a pre-teen, no joke). Then, I got a customer service job, and guess what? Chatting with strangers is no big deal—I got used to it pretty quickly.
When I joined co-op, I was nervous about working in an office. I’d never done it before, and I didn’t know if I would fit in. It was uncomfortable at the beginning, but then it became normal. It just takes time, and practice.
A thousand miles outside my comfort zone
Last January I went to Europe to study abroad for a term.
When I first got accepted, I quickly began having stress dreams about being so far from home and not knowing anyone even remotely nearby. Still, I was unbelievably excited, and I knew it was going to be a valuable experience no matter what.
I worried about the language barrier, making friends, and travelling alone for the first time. I worried very regularly that I was making the wrong decision, and that it was just going to be a waste of money.
But I still did it.
I got increasingly nervous leading up to the plane ride over. My heart would pound just thinking about being away from my friends and family for the first time. But I reminded myself that my body often responds irrationally to new experiences and that doesn’t mean that those experiences were going to be negative.
Now that I'm back from my term abroad, I can honestly say that despite many stressful days and sleepless nights, and even though it wasn't always fun or easy, it was unequivocally worth it.
If I never did anything outside of my comfort zone, I might occasionally be more calm and have less stress—but I would also be bored.