I believe in doing something scary. Based on our animal instincts, when we come across something frightening, there are two options: fight or flight. A fish can outswim a shark, and a mother bear will protect her cubs. For us humans, the circumstances are a little different, but the basic instinct remains the same. Humans do not have predators to run from, and violence is not always the best form of defense but fear is still nonetheless a part of our lives. Fear of heights, fear of the dark, fear of public speaking, fear of failure, the list goes on. However, while fish will never be able to get rid of sharks, we have the ability to conquer our fears and start running towards things, rather than always running away.
I spent the last semester in Paris. I am sure that does not sound the least bit scary and actually sounds really nice, which I assure you it was, but there is more to the story. I got off the plane with a group of people who I had never met before in my life, and not having spoken French since high school. All I knew was the name of the woman who was supposed to be meeting us at the airport and she showed up about 30 minutes late.
Why did I choose Paris? Well because it’s Paris. I had been there once before and I really was intrigued by the city’s “je ne sais quoi”. To me, spending a semester abroad meant living in a different culture where people, the language and the way of life are unfamiliar. I wanted to take a step outside of my comfort zone, but at the same time I did not want to step too far.
Syracuse offers programs in spectacular destinations all over the world: London, Madrid, Florence, Australia, and Hong Kong just to name a few. I could have gone to any of these places, but I did not feel any sort of connection like I did with Paris. I would not have been pushed as hard to improve my language skills, to make new friends, or to rely on myself. All of my classes were in French, I didn’t know anyone until I got off the plane, and rather than obtaining a visa through my program, I had to go to the French consulate in New York City and take care of it myself.
Although I had a huge “this could be the stupidest thing I have ever decided to do” moment shortly after I was dropped off at the airport, everything turned out fine. I did something that scared me and it opened me up to a new culture, new friends and some of the most amazing experiences of my life. This is why, as humans, we are lucky that we have the ability to address our fears and conquer them so we can continue to learn and grow.