I believe in stepping outside of your comfort zone.
When I arrived at Penn State in 2012 as a freshman, I couldn’t even begin to imagine the opportunities I would seize over the next few years.
I studied abroad for one month in Seville, Spain, taking a course on podcast reporting.
I spent five weeks in Cuenca, Ecuador, participating in a teaching practicum to earn my ESL Program Specialist Certificate.
I lived in Latacunga, Ecuador, for nine months, teaching English at a public university and volunteering at a nearby orphanage.
But as a freshman? I sat in a room in Sparks Building that seemed larger than life. I listened to the requirements of Paterno Fellows, inductees into the College of the Liberal Arts’ honors program. Paterno Fellows were required to study abroad or complete an internship. I remember deciding, right then and there, I would go the internship route. Studying abroad sounded daunting to an eighteen year old from Pennsylvania who had never been farther than Virginia, let alone been on a plane. I couldn’t imagine spending a significant amount of time in another country, far from my friends and family. I thought I would play it safe.
To this day, I can’t say for sure what made me change my mind. But I did. During the summer between my sophomore and junior years, I boarded my first ever plane and crossed the Atlantic Ocean by myself. When I met my host family for the first time, I struggled to understand the heavy Andalusian accent my Spanish classes hadn’t prepared me for. I cried that first day, missing home and wondering what I had gotten myself into. I knew I had to make it through the month, but after that I would never have to leave the comfort of home again.
Flash forward to three years later, and I still keep in touch with my “familia sevillana.” We exchange messages on Facebook at least once a month, and I hope to return to Seville next summer to visit them. I’ve also come to love travel because of the incredible experiences I’ve had. I’ve swum with sharks in the Galápagos Islands. I’ve gazed in wonder at Machu Picchu. I’ve glimpsed Africa from the beaches of Spain.
I’ve made friendships that transcend linguistic, cultural and geographic differences. I’ve had my assumptions and beliefs challenged. I’ve learned I can adapt and make it on my own.
I’m not the same person I was when I flew to Spain three years ago. I’m more sure of my place in the world, and of the good I want to do in it. I’ve become more empathetic and accepting of differences. I’ve grown in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if I had stayed in one place.
So I believe in stepping outside of your comfort zone. I believe in doing the things that scare you. I believe in surprising yourself. It might require a leap of faith and a lot of courage, but if your experience is anything like mine, then I promise you: it’ll be worth it.
Adison Godfrey is a graduate assistant at WPSU. Godfrey is pursuing her master's of education at Penn State and teaching at State College Area High School.