Comfort in the Unfamiliar


Miranda An in the mountains

While in Paris I embraced every aspect of the abroad experience—the good, the stressful, the joyful, and most importantly, the uncomfortable. I knew choosing to live in an unfamiliar place for an entire semester would be life changing at the simplest level, so I made a promise to myself to do as much as I could to place myself out of my own comfort zone—within reason!

As a science major interested in biology, medicine, and disease, I took courses centered around French art, history, culture, and literature, as well as others about psychoanalysis and places of worship. Outside of the classroom, I attended art exhibitions and classical concerts and visited historical landmarks that I knew very little of before.

While in Paris I embraced every aspect of the abroad experience—the good, the stressful, the joyful, and most importantly, the uncomfortable.

Expanding my horizons to beyond my normal interests and comfortable field of study was one of the best aspects of being abroad. I find that it has influenced the way I think about and approach subjects I loved before. 

My time abroad shaped the way I accept other beliefs or interests, in turn shifting my own beliefs and interests. I quickly learned how many French people communicate (in subtly different ways than I am used to back in the States) and choose to live their lives, emphasizing certain aspects of life such as leisure and meal time that weren’t part of my busy life at Cornell. I’ve learned that although I might not necessarily be compatible with every aspect of a different culture, it is important to remain open-minded and respect and accept every part of a culture, just as aspects of my values may not be viewed the same in their perspective.

Meeting other international students from all different countries (to name a few: Vietnam, Norway, Italy, Tunisia, China, and Greece) has helped me realize the commonality that people share—warmth, kindness, and connection—all expressed in different ways. I am more interested in the arts now after returning and will use this experience as a stepping-stone to continue to learn about other cultures, developing new beliefs and interests along the way!

I’ve emerged from the experience appreciating the beauty of Paris as it is.

I have definitely become more relaxed when it comes to being in an unfamiliar place. After crossing the large cobblestone roads and wandering down many of the narrow one-way streets in Paris, I’ve come to appreciate every aspect of a city that has so much to offer. I didn’t come into the experience seeing everything as beautiful, but because my approach toward unfamiliar environments has changed, I’ve emerged from the experience appreciating the beauty of Paris as it is, with all the beautiful buildings, loud honking, chic cafés, and wandering tourists.

I’ve learned that being uncomfortable is a natural and essential part of exploration that comes with growth—and what better way to explore than in a completely different country. 

France
Arts & Sciences
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