My family moved to Guelph when I was 10 years old. I had always planned on doing my undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph and even pursuing graduate studies here (but I’m not quite there yet). This hasn’t really changed. I am now in the process of completing my undergrad at the University of Guelph.
Over the past few years, my time at the University of Guelph has pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and venture into a new country through the Study Abroad program, as well step into the role of Faith Ambassador with the Multi-Faith Resource Team through the Peer Helper program.
Through the Centre for International Programs, I was able to spend a semester in the UK. This was an incredible experience and one that ten years ago I never would have even entertained the thought. Meeting new people is not the easiest for me to do. I find it a great challenge to step into a new space and greet unfamiliar faces. I had to do a lot of this while I was away. Spending a semester in Wales meant that I had put myself in an entirely new environment where I did not know anyone. There were no familiar faces to turn to. I knew this going into the semester, but as it approached, I became more and more uncomfortable with it. Little did I know, that when it came time to go home I wouldn’t want to.
With fear and excitement, I entered into my new home for the semester. I would soon be meeting the other girls in my flat for the first time. What would they be like? Will we get along? Will they like me? These questions were running through my head. After our introductions, it was clear that it was going to be fun living with them. Each of them were so intentional about including one another in different activities. I was invited to attend different events with them throughout “freshers week” and it continued through the semester. We often spent evenings together sharing a meal or watching a movie. These are friends that I will never forget.
I found myself sharing a number of things about my faith and what it means to me to be a Christian that I never found the courage to do before. I also found myself attending events on my own and having conversations with new faces more often than I would have expected. I met many other Christians on campus through their Christian Union and created some incredible connections. I truly met some amazing people while I was away. Hearing their passion for Christ has really energized me to show that in everything I do.
When I came back home, I was encouraged to take a position on the planning committee for the Gryphons Care Dinner, another new experience for me. It was a new experience because I, in the past, I had refrained from stepping into large commitments while studying. I am very glad that I did that. I was able to see how I could manage doing more beyond my studies. And it made my semester much more enjoyable.
These experiences lead me to consider applying for a position as a Peer Helper on the Multi-Faith Resource Team, another new for me. This is an even bigger commitment than just planning one major event. So far it has been a great opportunity for me to participate more in the University of Guelph community and meet new people of different faith backgrounds. It has challenged me to think past my own beliefs and traditions to incorporate other aspects of different students’ faiths in planning different events. Things like food and the timing of events are important to consider for a number of reasons. Different faiths have different traditions and holiday seasons, all of which are important to consider when planning. I am excited for what my time as a faith ambassador will show me in my own faith development as well as what I will learn from other members of the Guelph community who have different beliefs. I am encouraged to know that so many are open and willing to listen to where I come from.
These are some of my reflections on experiences in which I have stepped outside of my comfort zone. They do not need to be as big steps as travelling alone. Stepping outside of my comfort zone has been a rewarding experience for me thus far and I plan to continue to push myself to do this more often. It has greatly impacted my faith development and my excitement for new opportunities in very positive ways and I would like to encourage others to try it every once and a while.