It was a bright, clear day, the temperature warm but not humid, the sea breeze relaxing my sunburned skin. My hands doggy-paddled awkwardly, and my mask needed another emptying of salt water. Worries about drowning in an unflattering scuba mask drifted away lazily as I swam deeper out into the ocean. I looked down and saw the most amazing image I have ever seen in my life: the Great Barrier Reef.
I was about an hour outside of Cairns, Australia, snorkeling beside one of the most iconic wonders of the world. And how did I end up on the other side of the planet, 15 hours ahead of my normal time zone? It was all because of one big risk.
Australia has always been interesting to me, due mostly to family friends who live there. However, I never thought about actually crossing the globe to visit them. In fact, I figured I wouldn’t get the opportunity to go at all, especially not without my family.
But the Study Abroad Office annouced a trip to Sydney and Cairns last fall and got me day dreaming. I wanted to travel down under, but I was scared. I was worried about the distance, long flights and going alone, without friends.
Hesitantly, I signed up.
I’m not really sure what encouraged me to go to Australia. I’m not one who likes to be pushed out of my comfort zone, particularly when the pushing involves a 15 hour flight. But in all honesty, I’m so happy I took the risk.
Overseas, my worries melted away as soon as we landed. I took a course I thoroughly enjoyed, saw, listened, explored, ate and learned new things and, to top it off, surprisingly made a new group of friends.
Yet all of this wouldn’t have been possible had I not taken a risk.
Since the Australia trip was so successful, I have set a new goal to be more of a risk-taker this school year. I’m not talking about pulling stupid stunts guaranteeing my arrest, but doing things at school I normally would be too shy to do.
This may mean writing more edgy columns for the newspaper. Or it may mean talking to somebody I would be too scared to approach. This may mean attending a club meeting I’m unsure about joining, or getting tutoring for a class I’m struggling in. It may even mean volunteering, joining student government or going to a concert or sports event I would typically pass up.
I encourage all students, whether new to campus or returning, to step out of their comfort zone this year. College is an excellent place to try out new activities and make new friends, and you really shouldn’t miss opportunities for silly reasons.
All #YOLO-ing aside, I never would have fulfilled my dream of swimming in the Great Barrier Reef if I continued to be scared. The trip has really inspired me to shed my normal worrisome ideas and try new things. I’ll take on a Bradley theme this year: be brave.