My first year at Holy Cross was tumultuous; not only did I enter college in the midst of a global pandemic, but I grappled with the certain uncertainty that comes with starting college. I constantly questioned whether I was choosing the right academic path, what clubs I would join, and if I would ever feel prepared for life after these next four years. As a junior, I can confidently say that this uncertainty does not go away. Rather, this uncertainty has become a driving force for my personal growth, as I have found that embracing uncertainty has led me to incredible opportunities to learn more about myself and my community.
I began to develop the notion that discomfort is an opportunity for growth during my first-year CBL experience. Although my experience was confined to my dorm in Hanselman through my computer screen, I faced discomfort. I collaborated with students from Worcester Public Schools Transition Program as well as a Nurse Practitioner student to create educational panels for healthcare professionals on ableism. As an outsider who had never worked on this type of project before, I was hesitant to contribute to conversations and I feared that I was not doing enough to help. However, by taking the leap to act and speak despite my worries, I was able to make the most out of my experience. Hearing the experiences of people with disabilities in healthcare helped me perceive others through a more compassionate and informed lens. Through fully immersing myself in new environments, whether that was through my computer screen or at City View School through the CBL Latin Program, I was able to gain insights that informed my perspectives of different groups of people. I am certain that I would not have otherwise had these perspective-changing experiences if I did not take the opportunity to go beyond the minimum requirement of showing up to my CBL site and take risks to form stronger connections.
Our experience of learning from others as students tends to be a more passive than active process. We have grown accustomed to sitting and listening in lectures, and sometimes we are brave enough to take the leap to ask more. To make the most out of our experiential learning experiences, we must treat learning as an active process that requires constantly challenging our comfort levels and perspectives. We must strive to learn with others by stepping out of our comfort zones. Through my participation in CBL and Spring Break Immersion Program, I have learned that leaning into discomfort, rather than letting it be a debilitating force, has increased my understanding of others and their lived experiences.
My mantra since my first year, which has continued to be pertinent to my engagement experiences at Holy Cross, is the following quote: “if you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.” Growth lies within the new and uncomfortable. I would encourage everyone who is seeking opportunities for growth to not only lean into discomfort but seek experiences that might completely alter their current beliefs about others and the world.