Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Jaclyn is a New Jersey native and a sophomore at Northeastern University in Boston studying Political Science and International Affairs with a minor in Arabic. She is a news junkie who enjoys keeping up with current events, and she hopes to some day work for an international organization that provides humanitarian relief to citizens of conflict-affected countries. Her hobbies include serving as an editor for the Northeastern University Political Review, making elaborate travel plans for “someday,” and drinking impressive amounts of coffee.

Jaclyn is a sophomore at Northeastern University in Boston studying Political Science and International Affairs with a minor in Arabic. Her hobbies include serving as an editor for the Northeastern Political Review, making travel plans for “someday,” and drinking impressive amounts of coffee.

This past summer, I had my first study abroad experience, but I’m quite sure it won’t be my last. As studying abroad becomes more and more common for college students, it may not sound like such a crazy, step-out-of-your-comfort-zone type thing to do, but I have to say that my experience was definitely on the unconventional side…I studied the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while living in the midst of the war between Israel and Gaza this summer.

I had a very pleasant three-week travel experience…in a war zone. Something feels very wrong with that. While I was just a tourist there, for the people living in the region, the air raid sirens and bomb shelters and conflict are unfortunate realities that are woven into everyday life. I know that I don’t have to worry about forgetting this fact, as I am constantly bombarded with reminders of the conflict by the news and my social media feeds. It doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, so I will allow myself to reflect on the better parts of my experience in Israel without feeling guilty. I was lucky enough to immerse myself in a new culture and befriend people with views completely different from my own. I had stimulating debates and read pieces of literature that I never would have encountered at home. I consumed a startling amount of hummus and stood cautiously close to a camel. I met Israelis and Palestinians and engaged in an engaging discourse with both. I traversed the desert, the forest, the city, and the beach, all within the timeframe of a few weeks.

Most importantly, and what I think everyone can learn from a study abroad experience is, I discovered the importance of keeping an open perspective and never making up my mind about any topic permanently. I can’t keep track of how many times I changed my mind and altered my opinions during my time in Israel, and that’s a good thing. I will continue to challenge myself to think more critically, to engage in meaningful dialogues, and to make every experience a learning experience. Experiencing the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict firsthand for four weeks taught me more than I ever could have learned in a full semester in a classroom in Boston.

So there you have it; it may sound scary at first, but stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to gain real-world international experience will undoubtedly broaden your horizons and challenge even your most deeply ingrained beliefs.

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