The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Will Dickerman '21 RGLP Reflection: Leaving My Comfort Zone

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I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to go on two study abroad experiences since coming to Dartmouth, both of which took me out of my comfort zone and opened me to new perspectives and experiences.

 

The summer after my freshman year, I attended the Italian FIRE program in Rome. The FIRE program an Italian language study abroad designed for people who have never taken the language before. I felt nervous about moving to Italy without speaking a word of Italian. Living in the neighborhood of Trastevere, the other Dartmouth students and I quickly adjusted to our new surroundings. It truly is remarkable how fast it takes to get by using a new language when you have to get by using a new language. I noticed that we soon began having full conversations with Italian people, which opened up my eyes to entirely new perspectives than I had growing up in Los Angeles. 

 

 My junior fall, I decided to try to expand my horizons again by doing another term overseas.  I decided to go on an FSP in Edinburgh, Scotland. In Rome, all Dartmouth students lived together in apartments. This time, I was ready for a more immersive experience, so I chose to live in accommodations with non-Dartmouth students studying the University of Edinburgh. I found housing in a dorm with a 10-person suite. I had flatmates from China, England, Poland, Australia, and France. When we first arrived, everybody seemed to be mostly talking to people from their respective countries, and I wondered if we would only follow our own paths. Not wanting that, I proposed that we begin cooking and eating dinner at the same time once a week. Soon we were cooking hot pot, quiches, steak pies, and kopytka. Trying each other’s cuisines and sitting down together for meals broke the ice and enabled fascinating discussions that exposed me to the wide varieties of cultures represented in my flat. Over the semester, all of us grew close, and we ended up going on two trips around Scotland, one to Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond, and the other to the Scottish Highlands.

 

The more I meet new people from different backgrounds, travel to other countries, and collaborate with others, the more I learn that a diversity of experiences combined with open dialogue is the best way to learn how to listen better and communicate more effectively. Embracing cultural experiences outside people's comfort zones enables them to expand their perceptions.

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