Bursting the comfort bubble

Anyssa Logan | Co-Executive Editors | alogan@mail.smcvt.edu

Illustration by Anyssa Logan

When I applied for study abroad in the spring semester of 2022, I did not feel any nerves or the least bit anxious at the thought of leaving the United States to spend a semester in Copenhagen, Denmark. I bounced up and down with excitement, counting down the days until I was on my plane flying high above and away from New England. I never once thought of how there might not be another St. Michael’s student attending the same program or living in the city. As the day grows closer, my nervousness started to rise at the thought of being alone in a different country and being away from everything I have known and the people I have spent the past two and a half years with.
As the semester comes to an end, the campus buzzes with conversations of winter break and coming back in the spring, all the classes that are to come and the school events, like JibFest and P-Day, to expect next semester.
I listen to everyone’s excitement as I start to clean out my room and pack my bags, in preparation for studying abroad the entirety of the spring semester. As I pack, class assignments compete against due dates for flight details and passport information, along with my work shifts at my two on-campus jobs. I’m starting to feel like an amateur juggler, trying to get everything done all at once.
I came to St. Michael’s at the beginning of COVID, being a first-year after the world seemed to shut down. While I had a great experience, it was nothing like the college experience that was talked about all my life in movies and from family members. We had pods of friends, weekly testing and hybrid courses. The feeling of community that St. Michael’s is known for was attacked. We had little freedom, no popular campus wide events, like P-Day, were held. My sophomore year moved towards a normalcy that everyone craved, however, it never was fully achieved.
This semester, as a junior, was the first time I got to see many of my professors’ faces, something I wasn’t sure I was ever going to experience. As things around campus got more “normal,” I started to think more and more about what that meant for me since I will not be here in the spring. I will be missing the comfort of the St. Michael’s community as it finally makes its grand return. I have lived on this campus for years, yet, haven’t experienced any of the special traditional events more than once.
Every time this FOMO, fear of missing out, monster emerges, I’m greeted by everyone’s excitement for me and my upcoming experience. I get to travel, see new places and meet new people. “Campus will still be here when you get back,” gets repeated regularly, filling my ears and the back of my mind often. Studying abroad isn’t something everyone gets the opportunity to do either, I realize it is a privilege.
When looking at it this way, I feel a deep excitement bloom in me again at the choices that I get to make and the opportunities ahead of me. Once I get there, settling into the new atmosphere, I know I will enjoy every moment and that excitement will continue to blossom throughout the semester and the happenings on campus will all be long forgotten until my return.
“It is stressful,” said Peggy Imai, Director of the Study Abroad programs, when I shared my growing worries about leaving the community I have become so fond of on campus. “I mean, because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or if you’re going to figure it out in and time and all that, but that’s the value of all of this.” I have learned so much about myself just from the application and preparation process, pushing myself out of the comforting bubble that I didn’t realize was surrounding me. As I sat with Imai in her office, I felt a surge of pride and joy fill my body. There is no way to know what my experience in Copenhagen, Denmark will be and that is the alluring part of this whole process.
It’s the initial transition that holds all the fear, the in between of two moments. That community feeling that is craved can be achieved in different places, not replacing St. Michael’s but adding onto it. “Before you came here, it was a little stressful because you didn’t know anybody,” said Imai. “And in a relatively short period of time, this became your new family and your new home. Before you leave Copenhagen, that will be your new home.”
As one of my courses reached the end, Isabella “Isa” Paredes ’24, an international student, and I started to talk about her experience as an international student and I shared that I would be studying abroad next semester. Paredes’ face lit up with excitement. As these fears started to rise a couple days later, I decided to text her. “As time goes by, you realize it’s like there are so many good things that come out of that,” said Paredes when I asked if she thought studying abroad, personally, was worth the experience. “Pushing yourself out of that comfort zone can be so good for you as a person. I would say it’s definitely worth it because it’s so different from where you come from and it proves to you that the world is more than just your little bubble.”
As the day gets closer, being one month and 9 days until I’m in Boston Logan International Airport awaiting my flight, I let my stress and fears sit, noticing they are there but not allowing them to cloud my brain anymore. While I love Vermont, I’m prepared to jump into the unknown of Copenhagen, Denmark.