By Payton Loewenstein
A common word I hear when talking with people from TCCSevilla is “uncomfortable” I have said it maybe a couple hundred times since coming to Spain in August. Sometimes, “uncomfortable” can be used as an excuse to not try something or something not to do ever again. Over the last few weeks, I have experienced uncomfortable situations, words, people, food, and afterward, I so badly want to fall back into my box of comfort, but if I did, when and where would I grow? How could I meet new people like the abuelas at my church? Or realize my love for travel? Or know that I absolutely do not like gazpacho?
When I first got to Spain, the word I used the most to describe my time was uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable with having a roommate I barely knew, a woman who spoke only Spanish washing my clothes every week, walking 45 minutes to school every day, and learning how to survive and thrive in a culture that I previously had no knowledge of. Every day was a new uncomfortable situation: ordering food, shopping for clothes, not studying in my bedroom, even sweating so much my shirts would forever have stains on them. But after being halfway through the semester, I wouldn’t trade those moments for the world.
One moment that was so uncomfortable, I cringe a tiny bit just thinking about it, was a lunch I had with the church I attend in Triana (a suburb in Seville). Think a potluck but way smaller and more of the Spaniard way. So, after a 2-hour service (very typical in Spanish culture) we had a three-hour lunch including foods of all kinds. Half of the food served was brand new for me, and much of the people there spoke very Andalusian Spanish (strong accents and fast). I was so uncomfortable with all the people asking me questions, asking me if I wanted more of 20+ kinds of food, and abuelas yelling from across the room for me to come and eat with them. For three hours I sat, talked, ate, and enjoyed the uncomfortable moments. I realized during that time that I was embracing the Spanish culture, the life of a Spaniard. In Spain, when you eat, it’s a time to enjoy each other’s company and that was exactly what I was doing.
Un-comfortability is one of the most wonderful opportunities to try something new. Yes, maybe you’ll mess up, use para instead of por, or make a fool for yourself because you are not eating something correctly, but that’s the beauty of it, no one is perfect, or even close to it, so why try to be perfect? Most people say they either enjoy being in their comfort zone or enjoy getting out of it, but I have yet to hear from someone who said they regretted getting out of their comfort zone. Thinking about my decision to study abroad, it was like I was stepping out of my comfort zone and jumping onto a moving train. Every day you’re challenged with something new, and you have to take those things and embrace them. Because why stay in your box of comfort when you can go enjoy the beautiful city of Seville right outside your door?