How saying “yes” is sometimes the hardest part of starting the adventure of a lifetime.
When I was accepted to Babson there were so many things that intrigued me about the college, their Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship (FME) course, where students learned how to start their own business, the large undergraduate international population, where I would meet students from all over the world, and the beautiful campus right outside of Boston. However, it was Babson’s unique study abroad program – The BRIC Program – that excited me the most.
I remember when I was just a freshman at Babson prematurely going into the education abroad office in order to meet with the BRIC advisor. I was so eager to be accepted into the program and take part in a once of a lifetime study abroad experience, traveling with a cohort of 23 students to Russia, India, and China over the course of three months, the first semester of junior year.
However, when I got accepted into this highly competitive program, anxiousness quickly overtook excitement. In all honesty, I was in denial about the prospect of spending a semester abroad in three distinct foreign countries with people I knew very little about. When I spoke to friends and acquaintances about the adventure I was about to embark on, the experience felt very isolated from my own life. Looking at the past BRIC student’s photos, applying for my visa, and attending all of the pre-departure sessions did not make BRIC feel anymore real to me. It was not until I was buying travel necessities, a daunting amount of insect repellent, Advil, and mini travel shampoos, days before arriving at Babson, that it hit me that I was preparing for the completely unexpected and unknown.
I felt overwhelmed, wrestling with so many fears: was I going to get sick? Would I make friends with the cohort? Was I going to miss my family? Would I be able to adapt? I was scared of the future- the worst part being that I had done all of this to myself. I had wanted to go on BRIC, filled out the application, got into the program, and accepted the invitation. It was all on me.
Within days of the program’s start, I convinced myself that I did not want to study abroad anymore. Up until this point, I had taken many risks in my life, yet this time I thought I had pushed myself a little bit too far, questioning if I could take on the challenge. Although my mother assured me that I did not have to go if I did not want to, I knew that I could not let my own fears hold me back from an experience of a lifetime.
It is easy to say “yes” by merely showing up when you are supposed to, however immersing yourself fully in an experience is another story- it takes courage to be yourself.
Once our pre-departure sessions started, my anxieties had not dissipated. I remained closed off from the group, afraid of rejection and being vulnerable with the cohort, all of whom I had not known before. After holding back from volunteering to participate in a group bonding activity, which required sharing a personal story, I realized something had to give. In order to get the most out of the BRIC experience, I found that showing up was just half the battle, I had to dedicate action to words. To learn and grow you have to be vulnerable, make mistakes, and be engaged. As soon as I started to embrace opening up to the cohort, letting them get to know me better, I was able to connect on a deeper level both within the group and with the cultures that surrounded me in each location.
It is easy to look at the program and see how the rigorous course load in addition to the challenge of adapting to three vastly different locations could orient an individual towards growth. Yet, I have come to realize that committing to a challenge is oftentimes one of the most significant and overlooked steps within the entire process.
Sometimes life scares us, but it’s important to recognize these pivotal points in our life as opportunities to reflect on how far we have come and to continue to take leaps of faith, plunging ourselves into new experiences. And this all starts with the commitment to a simple, three letter word: