CIC: Change Is Complicated
Staying within the boundaries of your comfort zone is simple, it’s also hard to deter change. Crucially, change opens wounds we thought we had repaired.
Change is good.
Change is hard.
Yes and yes, I agree. But change is also complicated. Sometimes change happens all of a sudden, sometimes is gradual. Sometimes we don’t even recognise the shift.
Change is one thing that secretly all scares us. Whether we’re trying to escape a toxic situation or happy where we are, change makes our stomachs turn. It’s because it brings uncertainty, uncertainty we’re told is bad.
I wholeheartedly disagree.
Uncertainty, for me, anyway has proved to be the most uplifting and rewarding stage of any process.
Uncertainty of fitting-in during study abroad, I was a misfit, clear as day. I spoke differently, I didn’t know anyone. I was new. Fresh meat if you will. It was scary of course, there was a high degree of uncertainty.
I didn’t eat for at least a week, I stuck to crisps and fruit winders. Natural Valley bars were a special occassion. Social interaction scared me. I didn’t want to go out to events late at night. I later analysed that this was culture shock — a type of change.
Additionally, I had left friendships in the UK. I had friends that I didn’t want to leave. I had a lot of emotions that were unexplained and needed time to understand what they really meant. Those all were broken down. All of them.
The transition, still carrying these unknown feelings, was rough. I couldn’t talk to anyone because no-one understood. It was a hard time, one that I appreciate matured me faster than I ever could have imagined.
Soon, I gathered the courage to talk to Americans. Americans. When I type it now, it seems silly because they really aren’t any different. Just born in another country. They are still humans. Share the same emotions and similar struggles.
The rest is history. I now can say I have friends around the world. It’s amazing to look on your contact list, pull out a map and plot where you could travel to just because you made the effort to say ‘hello’.
This is Keri. She’s American. From the smallest state in America (look it up).
She is studying abroad at QMUL, I’m her (quote-on-quote) buddy.
I realised after yesterday why I like hanging around with Americans while I’m in London. I think it’s because I’m still holding on to what could have continued in Austin.
I did spend 5 months completely surrounded by Americans, so I can understand and empathises with the ‘odd-one-out’ role.
London is a much bigger city than Austin too. There’s more people compacted into one area, I can imagine the transition has been harder. But in the same vein, things are closer here. Isolation, in terms of proximity, is significantly reduced. It’s all up for debate. Apples and oranges, as they say.
I remember and valued the time I spent with Americans because I was the one encroaching on their lives for a limited amount of time. I had no right, in all honesty. That’s why I’m still overwhelmed with the impact, I was told, I had on the people there.
Keri, and all of my buddies, remind me of how I was last August. Lost, a little disorientated and eager to meet new faces.
With that in mind, I don’t think she has come to the most welcoming place. I was fortunate I went from hostile social interaction with outsider groups to a part of the world where the customer is always right. Truly.
While Keri says she’s from New York, for ease, it’s significantly harder to adapt to a country that tends to keep to themselves and not be as welcoming. That’s a critique of British people in general, I don’t think we’re the most appreciative of others.
I remember when American students came for study abroad in my first year of university. We had our own group which we would religiously convene in, we wouldn’t sit anywhere near anyone on their own. It tended to be study abroad students on their own. This significantly mirrors our attitudes outside of academic settings.
Internally we’re not these type of people. It’s an exterior image. We look uninterested, not because we really don’t care but because we’re brought up to mind our own business.
I’ll be honest, if I wasn’t mentoring my buddies, I probably wouldn’t have made the effort to make the first move. Not because I didn’t care, just because the culture in the UK is not to do as much.
Keri, Kaylie, Sam, Noah, Molly and Danielle are all wonderful people. It’s unfortunate that British culture wouldn’t have connected us like American culture might have, but I’m grateful this opportunity exists in replacement.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Keri and others, yes they should make more of an effort, whilst revealing their true American, to converse with regular students. We should understand that this experience is a huge change for a short period of time.
I think that’s the key takeway. The fact that change can be temporary rather than permanent leads to complacency. We don’t recognise its significance because we yearn for it to end or change back to normality.
But is anything ever normal? There isn’t one time in my life where I could say things were normal. Our perspective on normality is very abstract and individualised.
Change is complicated, mainly because society paints a bad picture about uncertainty, when it really doesn’t know what it could bring.
After all, uncertainty and change are inevitable anyway so there’s no point worrying about it.
Easier said than done, it must be said.