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Study Abroad: An Uncomfortable Experience in France

Mallika Mitra pictured while traveling in Europe. (Mallika Mitra / Index)

I got aboard a plane at John F. Kennedy airport with my surprisingly under-fifty-pound suitcase stored in the luggage along with a large green pack that had seen me through LandSea on August 31st. To say I was scared would be an understatement. To say I was terrified would be an understatement, too. All I knew was that my French was barely enough to get me through language classes at K, let alone studying, making friends, and living with a host family in Strasbourg, France.

Exactly five months later on January 31st, I will board a plane in Frankfurt, Germany with many dirty clothes accumulated from traveling for a month straight, many souvenirs as well as many souvenirs (“memories” in French), and much more confidence. I’ll have visited eleven new countries, made seventeen new friends, and learned a new language.

If I have learned one thing from study abroad it’s this: it’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s actually good and helpful to be uncomfortable. This discomfort can come in many forms, but for me it’s included leaving a friend at a train station in France just weeks after we arrived, saying “la même chose” (“the same thing”) after my friends ordered food so I wouldn’t have to order in French, and getting completely and seemingly helplessly lost just three minutes away from my apartment.

It’s come in the form of nearly walking in front of every passing car on the streets of London because I expected them to be in the opposite lane, trying to use franks where I should have used euros, and pounds where I should have used korunas, and making conversations with Australians in Switzerland who were on their way to New York.

I found discomfort in trying to navigate the farmland of Belgium, and the busy streets of Madrid and Barcelona. Discomfort was on the subways in Paris, under the tents of Oktoberfest in Munich, along the Berlin Wall, and across the bridges of Amsterdam.

Discomfort began to feel constant, and I stopped minding it.

I began to feel accomplished after navigating difficult situations, and courage when facing them. So when I fly back to the United States and begin to feel more and more comfortable with each longitude line I cross, I will miss the discomfort and the lessons it taught me while abroad.

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Study Abroad: An Uncomfortable Experience in France