Comfort zones do not have to be limitations

Photo by Casey Gomez

I remember restlessly browsing Georgia Tech Class of 2018 Facebook page in the time between being accepted to Tech and August 18, 2014. I spent much of this time before the fall semester started trying to plan for college as much as possible, including making my desired schedule (and a few backup schedules). I found my freshman year roommate through the page by comparing our interests and sleeping habits, among other things. It was a completely new stage in my life and I felt wildly unprepared. FASET helped transition me from nervous to excited, but there were still a lot of unknowns that I wanted to make certain. Transitioning to college went smoother than expected and I was able to fall into the routine of a typical Tech student — drinking coffee, staying up late and spending way too much time in the dining halls and the study room in Brown. I made friends and I got involved and I generally felt like things had stabilized and I was comfortable.

Then I studied abroad at Georgia Tech Lorraine. I had to travel approximately 4,500 miles by myself to a country where the native language wasn’t English. I did a lot of research including talking to friends who had done study abroad but I still didn’t feel prepared to face this new experience all on my own. Of course everything ended up fine and, as anyone who has studied abroad will tell you, it was one of the best and most rewarding experiences in my life and I walked away with some great friendships and memorable stories. Later on in my Tech career, I started undergraduate research. I pretty much did this because ‘it’s what you do.’ While eventually quite rewarding, it started off rough. There’s not much preparing you can do besides trying to delve into your research professor’s published papers. The world of research felt wildly over my head with complex topics I could never dream of wrapping my mind around.

There seems to be a repeating pattern where I think I can’t do something and I let it worry me, even if it’s something realistically I don’t have control over. I didn’t really notice this pattern until I started getting ready to graduate.  It feels as if I’m trying to look over a precipice but it’s dark and foggy and I cannot really make anything out. I am faced with packing up all of my belongings, moving and essentially starting over in a new city.

The next chapter of my life once again involves heading into the unknown, with a brand new routine to settle into. In reality, I’ve always felt unprepared and I probably always will. But I know even when I feel unprepared, I’ve done just fine. When things are uncomfortable, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad. It means you’re growing out of your comfort zone.

Reflecting on my time at Tech, it’s obvious that I’ve learned a lot about chemical engineering and gained a broader perspective on things. I know that I’ll continue to learn, but one of the biggest things I’ll takeaway from my time at Tech is about myself — even the things I think I can’t do, I can.