Benjamin Saff: The Most Important Thing About Study Abroad

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Today is my last day in Mannheim. I must say that the four months seem to have flown by. I this blog post I will let my thoughts flow freely and hopefully illustrate some changes that took place in me over my time here.

I remember an initial anxiety upon coming here. It’s the anxiety that comes along with thoughts upon the unknown. “What will it be like?”, “Will I be able to make it there on my own?”, and “What if I don’t like it?” and so on. This also recalls to me a general attitude I had prior to my experience here. It took form as a subtle voice in my head, that one which urges us to remain in a state of comfort. When I was faced with a chance to do things I’d never done before or hang out somewhere with people I didn’t know quite so well, that subtle voice would kick-in. It wouldn’t always petrify me from leaving my comfort zone, but when it did, another voice was surface in the aftermath – the “what-if” voice. “What if it would’ve been great fun?”, “What if you missed out on meeting great people?”, and “What if you weren’t sitting on your ass right now watching YouTube videos?” and so on. I think you get my point, yeah?

I think we all have these instinctive voices within us, the ones that interplay while we are trying to make up our minds. It is part of our nature. But from my time here, I’ve come to believe that we can get these voices to work together, to harmonize, to unify under one just cause: the hunt for experience. The idea of experience is not something we constantly think about, we just do it. We experience things every day and these experiences can become often mundane and repetitive if we are not careful. If we let our “comfort-zone” voice guide us too much, we are essentially, brick by brick, building a wall around us. This barrier between us and new experiences, a brick chamber labelled “comfort”. We reach a point where we see nothing but our familiar walls. When things can a bit boring in our cell, we can fill it with material distractions, carefully placed in time to get us through our comfortable life, with little interest of the world outside. Okay the metaphor is getting a bit hippy, yeah? Anyway the final point is what this experience has allowed me to do. It has allowed me to break down my walls of comfort (sorry last one) and rediscover my surroundings. I see new paths, new places and new possibilities, waiting for me to experience. Step outside your comfort zone, and silence the voice of “what-ifs”.

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