Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Finding Comfort in Study-Abroad Discomforts


CHATTER squareIt is by no coincidence that the Spanish words for foreigner, extranjero, and strange, extraño, share linguistic roots. The foreign, in the many and various forms it takes, always seems a little weird and uncomfortable at first.

The foreigner (as I myself am experiencing) can often be easily picked out as different. That said, there is tremendous value in seeking the foreign and learning more about the world around us, however large or small that particular setting may be.

Every new experience is naturally stressful. We are normally able to manage that to which we are accustomed, but venturing into the unknown is simply daunting and demanding.

Abroad, the days are spent balancing pressures of finding new friends and the impulse to make the most, or aprovechar, of the relatively short time spent abroad, all the while still being a student. Did I mention that it is all to be conducted in a foreign language? As fun as the experience certainly is, it is easy for few, especially right at the start.

But each of these challenges presents opportunities for personal growth. Forming new relationships, whether with fellow Georgetown students or persons from countries around the world, informs us of new worldviews and sometimes particularly useful slang.

Tackling multi-page lists of both museums and clubs expands cultural awareness and allows for more informed analysis of the surroundings abroad, each list in distinct ways. Of course, we are all at Georgetown and our universities abroad as students first, an intellectually expansive and diverse pursuit in and of itself.

Our studies of language in the classroom, on the street and in cafes allow us to conduct this personal development in more regions and with more people, casting a wider net for our own enrichment.

It is not the first time that any student currently abroad will have similar feelings, nor the last. Whether a student is from Vienna, Virginia, (at the end of the Orange Line) or Vienna, Austria, the move to Georgetown was likely a shock at first too. Joining a club by oneself, accepting internship and job offers in new cities or even just selecting a new running route can be just as intimidating as it is exciting; what lies ahead is to be seen.

As deeply connected as we are with our Georgetown experience as we presently know it to be, it is a fleeting time of constant transition, and a substantial component of this journey, and what we will surely experience many times afterward, is becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The first step is overcoming the initial shock of a new setting, whatever it may be. However, the ultimate goal is to integrate, to no longer just see new perspectives, but to see through new perspectives.

This can mean a number of things: the adoption of cultural practices, new personal values, greater tolerance or even gastronomic adventurism. It is not leaving a comfort zone; it is drawing a new, larger one. These are the deep, meaningful experiences that change who we are and what we are capable of — all for the better.

A lot can happen during these Spanish nights, but this openness and consequent values shift is not an overnight process; it takes time and it takes work. If we can charge ourselves to be uncomfortable just long enough, we will soon find our worries to be swept away and our lives more enriched than before, moving beyond just being extranjeros wherever we go.

3b3ea4cSeamus Guerin is a junior in the College. The Madrid Project appears every other Wednesday at

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