Advocating for Yourself in New Places

Featured image taken at Coffee Club Cafe in Amman, Jordan

When you’re not in your element it can be very difficult to go through the motions of the day. I have found that with culture shock comes a dip in productivity. You become overwhelmed with stress and have the inability to think clearly. However, it is important to note that this feeling is only temporary and can be overcome.

The days are different than at home because of a variety of factors (here are some!):

  1. The language is different
  2. You don’t know your way around and may be afraid of losing your way
  3. You have a host family and feel like you can’t be as direct as with your parents
  4. You’re with at least one other student 24/7 and need to be alone for a little

These are some of the specific situations that have made things slightly difficult for me and for many other students. When you are immensely independent at home and now have to rely on dictionaries, maps, gps, and uber (or in jordan, Careem), you feel like your autonomy is taken away from you.

I even felt like I was changing and had a slight identity-crisis. I thought to myself–am I not as independent as I thought? Am I changing for the worse? Am I QUIET? (my biggest fear because that is not me).

Anxiety flooded my veins as I felt like I was not as ‘me’ as I normally am. People here thought I was quiet, people here didn’t see me as the outspoken, honest girl who dances in grocery stores and sings at the top of her lungs on a normal car-ride. That’s because here I didn’t feel like this person and it broke my heart every second because my friends and family knew me as this girl and I wanted my friends and host family here to see me this way.

But as time goes on here I am growing and even…changing, but for the better. I am getting acclimated to my new environment and realizing that the culture here is different and I may have to tone myself down a little, BUT I can most definitely be myself and I still consider this a work in progress but it is better than no progress at all #babysteps 🙂

Ironically, I write this blog now as I am finally alone at a cafe called Coffee Club for the first time this entire trip. I have basically gone an entire month and just now am feeling like I have some travel experience where I won’t get completely lost and can use my resources.

There comes a point where you don’t want to talk to anyone and just need some time to breathe, reflect, and be alone–this is completely normal and okay. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. I got work done, I talked to my family, and felt like I wasn’t on someone else’s time clock.

I write this because I feel it is immensely important for those studying abroad to realize that study abroad is NOT sunshine and rainbows. While it can include those things, it is still life. With it comes challenges, new experiences, tears, anger, confusion, and all other combinations of emotion. Yet, it is beautiful and rewarding.

You see other people posting pictures with smiles painted across their face and assume they aren’t struggling or experiencing culture shock but I guarantee you they have felt lost if even for a second. Social media has a way of only conveying the good and to be human you need to see the good, the eh, and the ugly.

Aside from the struggles it is also important to advocate for yourself. Don’t just let things inconvenience you and assume things need to be that way because you’re somewhere different. If you are in an uncomfortable position, want to change something, or do something new make sure you let your voice be heard.

I have learned so much about myself and the world and know that this knowledge will continue to deepen and influence me.

But for now I’m going to go drink some coffee, enjoy the breeze, and let everything else come my way because I am ready for it.