Jessica McDermott ’21 RGLP Reflection: Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Each fall, winter, and spring, the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) brings together 25 student leaders to increase their understanding of global leadership and intercultural competency. Through weekly sessions with speakers and a culminating experience to either Boston, Montreal, or New York City, the students are able to learn about themselves and cross-cultural leadership. The Spring 2019 cohort spent a weekend in Montreal as part of their culminating experience.

I am constantly working to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Over the course of our trip to Montreal, I thought a lot about how every person has a different comfort zone. We had many experiences in Montreal that I enjoyed or helped me achieve other objectives, but didn’t necessarily put me in uncomfortable positions. I felt comfortable learning about Deaf and blind culture and embracing the ambiguity of our adventure. However, an area where I feel personally uncomfortable is talking to strangers, especially when there is a language barrier. I’m not sure why I feel this way, but I think my shyness sometimes gets the best of me and discourages me, even though I want to meet new people. 

One day in Montreal, I was riding down the elevator in our hotel with another RGLP member, and a man spoke to us in French. I was nervous because I don’t speak any French, but the man ultimately realized we were American and was still friendly in English. I had initially felt uncomfortable because I was worried about the language barrier in this social interaction. Had he not spoken to us first, I probably would not have engaged in a conversation with him on my own. 

I know that my anxieties about talking to strangers will not help me embrace new situations or be a strong global leader. Having identified this area of discomfort, I now must work harder to “be comfortable” putting myself in this “uncomfortable situation.” This trip reminded me to prioritize talking to new people in my day-to-day life at Dartmouth, so that I can extend my comfort zone and reach out to new people in global settings as well. 

I am someone who, at times, enjoys being quite extroverted, but at other times I prefer to revert back to familiar environments and be less outgoing. This is my biggest challenge in different cultural contexts. I don’t know why I feel uncomfortable talking to strangers, but I know that this discomfort exists and that I want to continue to try to overcome it. 

-Written by Jessica McDermott ’21, Spring 2019 RGLP Participant

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.