U-M Economics Senior, Abigail Siegal, recently wrote an entry for the LSA Opportunity Hub Blog about the invaluable experiences her summer internship provided. Read about Siegal’s experience working with the Fulbright Commission in Warsaw, Poland, as well as somethings she learned along the way.

The Art of Leaving Your Comfort Zone

I’ve always been adventurous, independent, and craved trying new things. I think it was sort of drilled into me by my parents. My parents always pushed me to do new things, like where we travelled as a family. While many of my classmates spent breaks going to Florida every year, my family almost always went somewhere different, which means I’ve travelled to 33 states (it’ll be 35 by the end of the summer).

I can’t remember a time where I said no to something because I didn’t know anyone going. I’ve always been more afraid of missing out on an experience rather than the social anxiety that came with it. I’m the type of person that’s good at making big decisions, but bad at making small ones, like picking a seat in the movie theater gives me more anxiety than deciding what to do with my summer.

I’ll be honest, writing this week’s blog has been tough. I’m on my 7th revision and 3rd title. The reason for that is camp. I went to sleep away camp for 8 years and that sleep away camp kicked off their summer this week. On Tuesday, many of my friends had campers arriving and on Wednesday, my brother left for a 5 week cross country trip to the west coast through camp (I did it 5 years ago). I’ve been seeing pictures on Facebook and to be honest I’ve been a little jealous that they’re hanging out with kids, outside, while I’m stuck working at a desk 4 days a week.

Here’s the thing, the reason I’ve pushed that jealousy aside is that I left my comfort zone of camp 5 years ago and I’ve learned so much since. I loved my time at camp, but it became my comfort zone. The place that’s supposed to push kids out of their comfort zone simply becomes one. I look back at the pictures and see the same friend groups that existed when we were campers and the stagnant activities, that’s because camp doesn’t change. Wednesday lunch will always be grilled cheese and tomato soup, color war will always be the same day as senior skip day, and the clinic will always have popsicles.

Now I know that while my summer is not the same as those friends, I have been, and will continue to have, different and new experiences. After spending 4 weeks at an unpaid internship I can honestly say that the value of an experience can heavily outweigh the value of money. This summer I have travelled to 3 continents and 12 countries (so far, it’ll be 17 by the end of the summer). Being able to travel where I want (okay, not Belarus), experiencing new cultures, and seeing history and art in person is priceless.