March 18, 2014
“Scared, excited, nervous, happy, sad…pretty much every emotion in the book other than confident.” That was my daughter’s reply when I asked her how she felt when she first got to college. She’s not unique – I’m guessing that would describe a huge number of freshmen on any campus.
What is unique about her is that she chose to go to college in another country. She was given an incredible opportunity to study at a prestigious conservatory in Scotland – a place neither of us had ever been until we moved her into her housing at the beginning of her fresher’s year.
I honestly couldn’t believe my baby had the guts to move across the ocean, where she didn’t know a single soul, to follow her passion. And yet, I unpacked her, got back on a plane without her, and left her to figure out college completely on her own. (My apologies to the person who had to sit next to the crying mess of the mama I was for seven hours that flight).
Yet, I couldn’t have been prouder. My baby was stepping way outside her comfort zone. Way outside of her normal suburban life in Michigan to a place where elevators are lifts, the peanut butter tastes different, there is no campus dining hall, French fries are chips, bagpipes are a regular sound on the way to class and the accents are all different than what she was used to.
I recently asked her how she managed such a big transition by herself. She said that knowing she had a support system back home and another one at school was incredibly beneficial. Faculty, staff and friends did many things to help her fit in. Her friends even hosted an American Thanksgiving for her and other U.S. students to make them feel at home.
She thrived in Scotland and had a wonderful time at school. She made lifelong friends, got an outstanding education and had incredible experiences like meeting a prince and performing at the Olivier Awards in London. She says that it was 100 percent the right place for her because she needed to venture outside her comfort zone at that point of her life.
She was lucky. She had the support she needed when she needed it. I know every day wasn’t easy, but she knew how to ask for help.
Farha Abbasi, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry who specializes in mental health issues among Muslims, knows exactly what it’s like to move far out of her comfort zone. She arrived in the United States from Pakistan in 2000 and says she was bewildered, overwhelmed and afraid. The impact of her experience led her to change her medical field from internal medicine to psychiatry.
She found her calling in organizing the Muslim Mental Health Conference, which will occur next week in Dearborn, Michigan. The conference gives faith-based leaders and mental health professionals the chance to come together for the betterment of the Muslim community, where some do not seek out help because of deep layers of cultural stigma. Read her FACULTY VOICE, The Journey Has Begun, to learn more about the conference and her work.
Both my daughter and Professor Abbasi say they found new homes away from home. Sometimes stepping outside your comfort zone is the beginning of a great new direction in life.
Many MSU students find new homes at the Honors College. The college serves academically talented, committed students who wish to pursue and achieve academic excellence at MSU. Check out the great video in the STUDENT VIEW: Pioneer, Innovate, Engage, to see 10 students describe what their time in the Honors College has meant to them and how they pioneer, innovate and engage as scholars.
Spartans aren’t afraid to push their boundaries way outside their comfort zones. It’s how we grow, learn, engage, create, discover, find ourselves and make differences. Spartans study abroad, try new things, make new friends, explore the world, seek answers, dive into research and look for ways to change the world.
Photo of new triplets at the MSU Sheep Teaching and Research Center by Derrick L. Turner