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The CIEE Diaries: Hasta Luego, Comfort Zone

My first week away from the United States could best be summed up in the following steps:

1. Venture outside comfort zone.

2. Nearly crap self with panic.

3. Push self to keep going.

4. Get comfortable.

Then repeat. Every single day.

Metro stations, trains, and a huge language barrier have been the first few challenges. My initial reaction to all of this "newness" is to shut myself in my room and cry, but that is the fast track for guaranteeing 10 months of misery. This is the mythical land beyond my comfort zone that I've been aching for for years. I found it.

In my limited experience, living abroad forces you to adjust yourself to the environment, because the environment won't do the same for you. Instagram and Facebook are precious little fairy-tales, but I don't want to glamorize it: adjusting to life in a foreign country is hard. Every single day I've experienced the full spectrum of emotions about living in Spain. One minute, I'm pondering how lucrative it would be to book a weekend flight to Batesville, Arkansas. A few hours later, I'm waist deep in tapas and drinking bravas sauce from the bottle squealing, "I'm never going home!"The comfort zone cycle is my new normal. Yesterday, I explored the gardens and grounds around a palace from the 15th century. Today, I went for a run in Retiro Park, and ate Italian food with my host family. Every day is a new experience that stretches my definition of "familiar."

I'm going to leave you with a challenge: find a way to leave your comfort zone- even just a little bit. When you're in the throes of anxiety from leaving said comfort zone (and you will be, it's normal), focus on something familiar. On my first day abroad, it was something as simple as my suitcase. It had made this journey with me, and somehow it gave me peace. Since then, it's been cardio. It's very hard to throw a homesick pity party when your predominant thought is, "You better take a breath before that stitch in your side comes back."

I'm still terrified of getting lost in the metro station or accidentally taking a bus to Nigeria, so I'm walking everywhere. I'm going to lose a billion pounds, or my feet will simply fall off. Not sure which will happen first.

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