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Case Western Reserve University's independent student news source

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Editorial: Dare to tackle the unfamiliar

Lucas Yang

Case Western Reserve University students come from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Some of us are local to the state of Ohio, some are from other states and some even are from countries on the other side of the globe. This means that our first year can be an enriching time: All of a sudden, we’re exposed to people with unique experiences that we’ve never seen before. This can be especially significant if our high school years were homogeneous, where one culture or set of beliefs dominated.

Going to college in a completely new environment opens up our world in ways we never could have imagined. And these few years after high school, but before the demanding responsibilities of full adulthood, can serve as a worthwhile time for us to get to know ourselves and our fellow students better.

Many people often say that college can be a time to “explore” yourself. Of course, that is often in reference to “typical” college experiences: partying, romantic relationships, eschewing personal responsibilities and the like. But there is more to personal growth than acting wild for one last time before the realities of post-graduation hit us. We have the option of conquering our fears and anxieties, and daring to go beyond what we thought we were capable of.

The vast majority of the decisions we make as students in college—even as working adults away from college—are inconsequential. Chances are making a decision won’t hurt you or negatively impact your life; that decision might instead be neutral or even good. Despite the image of complete independence, college campuses such as CWRU’s are controlled environments. We all have to wake up, attend classes at regularly scheduled times and locations and interact with the same students we see every day. This might sound like a burden, but it can actually be freeing.

As students we have the ability to take risks and step outside our comfort zones with little harm. Afraid to reach out to a friend because you’re worried it might be taken the wrong way? Then reach out. You’re more than likely to receive a good response. Too overwhelmed to pick up a new hobby or skill because you won’t be good enough? Just give it a shot. No one is perfect the first time; that’s part of the learning process. Hesitant to act like your authentic self around your friends and the other people you care about? Let that authentic you shine as bright as you can. Your friends and loved ones might even be happy that you felt comfortable enough to open up and express your uniqueness.

Understandably, however, college is a time when many students develop anxiety, as transitioning to a new chapter in your life can lead to a lot of worries and confusion. If you feel this way, you are not alone. In fact, the recent Healthy Minds survey of more than 76,000 students from last year found that 36% of college students reported feelings of anxiety. And these feelings can be very challenging to manage and overcome.

But stepping outside of your comfort zone and taking on what is unfamiliar to you can be an effective way to overcome your fears. Anxiety can make you want to avoid the causes of your anxiety—but avoidance can actually worsen those symptoms. Instead, try to take on your fears slowly, one at a time. You don’t have to tackle every scary situation all at once. Over time, though, each small action builds up and you’ll come out the other side a much stronger and more resilient person.

Taking on the unfamiliar isn’t just helpful for those struggling with anxiety; it can also help all of us. Psychiatrist Abigail Brenner, who herself has dealt with significant life changes, suggests that stepping outside of your comfort zone can help you realize your untapped potential. Additionally, taking risks can act as important learning experiences, regardless of the outcome. You don’t have to succeed at everything you try. You are allowed to fail and stumble. Besides, if you grew from the risk, did you really fail?

Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be as simple or innocent as watching a show with a friend that you wouldn’t normally watch or learning a new game. No matter how big or small the effort, any kind of new experience is worth it. And who knows: You might even learn something new about yourself along the way.

College can be a scary time, absolutely. It’s full of twists and turns. Sometimes it might even seem like you’re walking through a dark forest with strange sounds that you don’t quite understand. But that strange sound you hear off in the distance might just be a forest animal trying to find its own way around. The best thing you can do for yourself in those moments is to be brave, at least for a little bit. Eventually, night will turn to day and you’ll find your way out.

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About the Contributors
Unsigned editorials are typically written by the opinion editor but reflect the majority opinion of the senior editorial staff.
Lucas Yang
Lucas Yang, Graphic Designer
Lucas Yang (he/him) is a second-year student studying computer science and English. He enjoys abandoning art projects, watching figure skating and distimming the doshes.

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