Moving to college couldn’t come quick enough as I longed to live my childhood dream of being in the Mecca of Fashion: New York City. I dreamed of studying Fashion Business Management at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). Doing so could have seemed scary especially coming from Jamaica, but I loved traveling and experiencing other cultures with my family. I saw leaving Jamaica again to further my education in New York City as another great adventure. However, after arriving in New York and attending my orientation, the shock of living by myself in a new country kicked in. I realized more than ever that it was time to come out of my personal comfort zone in order to overcome fears, discover myself, and accomplish personal goals.
I had to manage taking care of myself more independently and sharing my living space with people I didn’t know. Then, I realized I had to adjust to more diverse standards especially when it came to gender inclusivity and accepting cultural differences as this deepened my understanding of my identity. It was also a time for me to speak up more for myself as I had no one who fully understood my story, like my family did, to speak on my behalf or to back me up. As a shy person, especially when it came to public speaking, I had to develop how to vocalize my thoughts clearly. I wanted to overcome all these anxious moments outside of my comfort zone so that I could feel a sense of comfort again.
I remembered what somebody once told me before I moved to college, “If you go through college in a personally safe and controlled zone and leave with the same mindset and perspective of the world, you have not learned anything, even if you excelled academically.” This person’s words fueled my self-motivation to act courageous to stand for something and internalize personal responsibility and accountability, and also to be a visionary. From this I was driven to have a significant college experience; I was ready to accept change and push myself to do things I would be nervous to do normally, recognize and tackle my fears, and welcome curiosity for growth to take its course. Here are the tools that have helped me thus far in college to succeed outside of my comfort zone.
The major skill that FIT has taught me is to be unconventional, meaning I had to approach my academics without boundaries and program my mind to be unstoppable. Especially as an international student, I understood that mediocrity would not allow me to accomplish my goals of earning a scholarship and getting hired for an internship or job as I navigated my studies. I had to also keep an open mind in order to be inspired to complete assignments. Additionally, I pushed myself to believe that I could and would get through the requirements of each course successfully. I appreciated my background differences and others’ as an advantage for a more unique story.
Once you keep yourself busy, you will have less time to worry about homesickness. I recommend that you get active on your college campus and further involve yourself in the outside community. After feeling settled during my freshman year I joined a club and a sports team on campus, as well as did voluntary work in the community. This allowed me to start the process of establishing new connections, enabled me to be more well-rounded, competitive, and also opened doors for me to gain more experiences.
Deal with Challenges
Try your best to not procrastinate or shy away from uncomfortable situations that pose no harm. Push yourself to overcome obstacles, use your college support services for help and just do your best and leave the rest to faith. I recognized that I tend to shy away from public speaking but I knew I had to overcome my shyness and strengthen this important skill for presentations. I made a point to participate more in class and put myself forth to publicly speak when the opportunity arose in order to gain practice and confidence. I also approached challenges as a fun game that I wanted to win, for example, to feel comfortable in winning challenges of handling interviews and developing confidence in knowing myself. When campus job or internship interview opportunities arose, I would consider the interviews a chance to practice and gain experience. It is better to look at challenges as an opportunity to become stronger.
My mother told me that your college years can be an exciting time of your life and I agree; you learn more about yourself throughout the journey, are exposed to more truths of the world, and others’ perspectives to understand it. Changes in your life can be scary because you are leaving your comfort zone, like attending college, but it is an adventure that is worth the experience because the good news is that it opens you up to newness and growth!