Student Blogger Study Abroad

The Value of Feeling Uncomfortable – Alexa in Ecuador

A rusty metal swing set stands in a grassy yard. Bright blue buildings stand immediately behind it. The sky is grey and gloomy in the background.

Photo credit: Alexa Jokinen.

Each semester, one student from each HECUA program abroad takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Alexa Jokinen will be HECUA’s student blogger for the Community Internships in Latin America program this spring semester. Alexa is a sophomore at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota, double majoring in elementary education and Spanish. She will graduate in the spring of 2020, and hopes to become a bilingual elementary teacher. Read on for Alexa’s first post, a reflection on what motivated her to register for HECUA’s semester program in Ecuador.

Day to day, things make us feel physically uncomfortable. The shrieking sound of an alarm clock blaring away the peace and quiet that lies in a bedroom. The cold air that wisps through the seams of a three layered winter coat… well that is, when you live in Minnesota. Things also make us feel mentally uncomfortable. Meandering thoughts of an issue with a difficult coworker or an unresolved conflict with a friend seem to creep up behind us and tap us on the shoulder in our most vulnerable moments.
Being uncomfortable is part of life. But the important thing to question is, what do we do about these uncomfortable feelings? Do we complain about them? Do we avoid them? Why don’t we ever embrace them?

The past year, there have been things in my life that have made me relentlessly uncomfortable. A year ago I despised change, because change was uncomfortable for me. I was stuck somewhere in life. I wasn’t really happy. I was enrolled in college courses that weren’t fulfilling my dreams. I was uneasy around people I wasn’t close to. I was just unhappy – and it showed.

My hidden dream was to become a teacher, yet I was taking courses to become a physical therapist. An hour-long conversation with my father and a couple thousand emails to the the faculty in the education program later, I was enrolled in the teaching program. I met new faculty and professors that started to set my dreams aflame. On one of the first days of class, my professor explained how important it is for future teachers to learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. But over the last few months, I learned that everyone, whether you are going to be a teacher, or an engineer, needs to understand the importance of feeling uncomfortable.

Being uncomfortable is inevitable. When a person can learn to embrace this feeling, life becomes easier, more relaxed, maybe even more rewarding. You might be thinking, “what does she mean by embrace?” And that is simple. I mean seeing the value in the situations that challenge us like no other. Similar to how it takes failure to learn, it takes the feeling of being uncomfortable to become the person we are meant to be.

Amongst all the change happening in my life, I was told I would need to study abroad this year, instead of my senior year. Instantly, I was afraid. Was this too much change? I decided it wasn’t. I decided to learn to be comfortable with things that usually I would steer clear from. I applied for a study abroad program based in Quito, Ecuador. A place where I will be using my second language, Spanish, to facilitate my day-to-day interactions. Anyone who knows me, knows I love to speak Spanish for a couple minutes, maybe a few more. But every single day for three and a half months? That would be crazy.

Well bienvenido (welcome) to the documentation of my experience of learning to be comfortable with the feelings of uncomfortability. To finding the right bus every morning, to using a different language than English to teach, to have a voice, and to solve issues with my new peers I will have, that’s what I am in for. I am ready for the challenge. I’m ready to not be scared of change and things I am not comfortable with. Feeling uncomfortable is not going to discourage me anymore, if anything it will assist me.

To learn more about HECUA’s Community Internships in Latin America program, based in Quito, Ecuador, click here.

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