Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Conquering My Fears One Passport Stamp at a Time

As I entered my freshman year of college, I remember I was so nervous about sitting by myself at lunch. I wasn’t afraid of the coursework or the large campus, but the idea of being alone worried me the most. On the very first night at school, my entire floor ate dinner together in the dinning hall and my fears were suddenly gone. I realized that I was surrounded by people experiencing this new, strange stage of life together. I wasn’t alone. (and if I’m being honest, after a while I actually enjoyed the lunches when I could eat and read a book by myself!)

Starting study abroad made me revisit some of those fears. I approached this semester much like my first semester at UVM. I’d be with a new crop of students at a brand new school. However, this time around I knew from experience that I wouldn’t be alone so I wasn’t as nervous.

Throughout this past semester, I have found myself doing many things that I never thought I could do or wanted to do before because I was afraid or nervous. Usually I’m quick to say no before I say yes, and I’m beginning to notice this more and more. Before I left for Belfast, my mom told me to say yes to everything instead of missing out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. That really stuck with me and now I think carefully before I say no, or I just say yes before I have the chance to think about it and change my mind. This new mindset has really changed my semester for the better, and as a result I’ve been able to conquer some of my fears along the way.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever overcome my social anxiety, but I certainly worked on it this semester. In fact, I’m not even sure I can call it social anxiety, it’s probably just social awkwardness and let’s face it, I am and always will be an awkward person. There is just something different about meeting new people here. Like I said earlier, it’s like freshman year all over again, except this time you don’t have four years to get to know friends, you only have four months. That being said, I really couldn’t dilly-dally when it came to socializing. Forget my fears of being alone, there was no time for that! I enjoy talking to strangers, but initiating the conversation is one of my least favorite things to do. On top of that, not everyone speaks the same language, making some conversations difficult, others amusing, and all of them interesting.

Jenny and Rob IFSA-Butler friends

 

Aside from socializing, I also fear trying new things. I love cats and it’s probably because I can relate to their tendency to be creatures of habit. I knew when I applied to study abroad this semester was going to be chock-full of new things. I wasn’t afraid to try new foods, but then again, who would say no to sticky toffee pudding?!

During the three weeks of spring break, my fears were challenged the most. After my family’s trip and my friend Victoria’s quick visit over Easter, IFSA-Butler planned an adventure weekend for us at the Killary Adventure Centre. This was probably my favorite IFSA trip! It was so much fun! We could pick three activities over the course of the weekend, and mine included a high ropes course, kayaking and gorge walking, and paintball. Now these are not activities that I usually participate in, but I thought to myself, I’m at an adventure centre, on an adventure weekend, so if I don’t have an adventure then why did I sign up for this?

sign centre

My friends and I picked the high ropes course first so we wouldn’t chicken out. In hindsight, that was a smart idea. The activity began with a ride on a swing, which I thought would be easy. I seemed to have misheard the instructors when they mentioned that we’d be free-falling from 70 feet in the air! Cue the shrill screams! After watching a couple of groups take the plunge, Jenny and I hoisted ourselves into the seats, strapped on the harnesses and were lifted into the air. Probably the most nerve-wracking part of the ride was when we struggled to pull the cord at the top and our fall was delayed. Other than that, this was the easiest of the activities because it involved mostly sitting and gave us incredible views of the scenery.

sunset

What followed was the most terrifying experience of my time abroad. It may sound like I’m exaggerating, but I’m 100% serious. Cassie can vouch for me. We entered the ropes course and were told by our instructor Rocky that in pairs, we were going to climb up a telephone pole, stand on a platform that was probably 1.5 ft. by 1 ft., and then jump off, reaching for a trapeze before our descent to the ground. Wait, what? I think Cassie and I were the only ones who questioned this and thought it was crazy.

Seeing as we were the two terribly afraid of heights, it only made sense that we were paired together and went last, right? I don’t think my palms have ever been as sweaty as they were watching the others climb up the pole and jump off. (my palms are actually clammy right now as I’m recalling the events) By the time it was our turn, Cassie and I were nervous wrecks. She courageously went first and waited at the top for me to follow. I have no idea how we both fit on the platform, but once I stood up and joined Cassie, I took a moment to look around and boy were those views incredible! I could see the fjord over the tree tops!

night fjord

It took some coaching from Rocky to get Cassie’s feet to the edge, but eventually we were in position to make the jump. J One… two… three… We jumped!!! Arms extended, eyes wide, screaming loudly, we plunged off the platform!! …and totally missed the trapeze. But we did it! We conquered our fears! If we could do that, we could do anything! (well, maybe not everything, I have to draw the line at skydiving)

When I signed up for the ropes course, I didn’t hesitate. All of my friends were doing it, so I didn’t want to be the loner doing something else (see above about my fears of being alone). I knew I’d be afraid, but I also knew that it would be so much fun and worth it in the end. How many other chances would I get to jump off a pole in Ireland? (in case you’re wondering, I have had zero offers to jump off of poles since the adventure weekend in April, so it really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience). Looking back, if I had more information about what the activities entailed I might have said no, but I sure am glad I said yes.

(I don’t have any photos of the ropes course since I couldn’t hold a camera while climbing and jumping, so please enjoy pictures of the beautiful fjord)

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