Raising your hand takes a lot of courage. It is easy to take this liberty for granted when you are in a familiar classroom environment. I have always been an active participant in my classes, but in Costa Rica I had to push myself to join in on the conversation.
The class sessions at Universidad de Costa Rica are three to four hours long and meet once a week. It was challenging to pay attention for such a long period of time, especially when the courses were taught in my second language.
My favorite class I took while abroad was periodismo de opinión or “opinion journalism.” One week, we learned about different marketing tactics. We watched a video that focused on 10 ways to communicate with consumers. My mind raced through information I had learned throughout my academic career at the University of Kansas. I was eager to contribute whatever I could to the class discussion.
To my surprise, I kept resisting the urge to raise my hand. Whenever we paused the video, I would question how to communicate my ideas in Spanish. My heart throbbed helplessly because I was overwhelmed with intimidation. I was frustrated with myself after each missed opportunity. I felt paralyzed and incapable of being the successful student I was back home.
At the end of the video, the professor asked if there were any additional comments. I was desperate to jump in. I decided I was not the type of student to leave a class without participating, so I raised my hand. I recited what I had practiced countless times in my head. I did my best to maintain my poker face and conceal my nerves. I’m not sure if what I said made any sense, but I felt like I deserved a standing ovation.
I continued to develop a sense of confidence in the classroom and discovered the value of my voice. I reminded myself that I am an intelligent student who has meaningful things to say. I was the only person who was able to decide what I would gain from my education abroad, so I continued to make an effort to tackle new challenges.
I focused on the fact that I was doing something new and hard. I realized it was ridiculous to hold myself to the same standards that I do in the United States because I was in a whole new world. I accepted that I could not be perfect, but I never stopped taking pride in my daily milestones.