For my STEP Signature Project, I traveled to Guatemala with eleven other individuals through Buck-I-Serv. While we were there, we helped local masons build earthquake resistant concrete homes for families whom we worked alongside through an organization called Constru Casa. In our down time, we explored and got to know Guatemala, its history, and the stories of the people who we met along the way.
Before going on this trip, I had only ever been out of the country one other time – last year, to Niagara Falls. Though I did need my passport to get there, it wasn’t quite a culture shock. Guatemala was quite the opposite, showing me a culture completely opposite from what I have experienced growing up in the United States. I tried my best to not go into this trip with any assumptions since the blunt truth is, I had no idea what it would be like. However, I did have many assumptions about myself before going into this trip. Often times, I stay inside my comfort zone. I’ve had the same friends my whole life, I’m from central Ohio, and I typically going into things knowing exactly how it will play out. This service trip to Guatemala truly challenged all of those assumptions. I was continuously pushed out of my comfort zone and had to challenge myself in ways I never have had to in the past. Since being home from the trip, I’ve been trying to seek out experiences doing things that really push my envelope, and have been having more fun in the past month of new experiences than I have a lot throughout my life. I am finding I am capable of more than I had expected, or ever even thought about.
How my transformation happened
As previously stated, I did not know anyone going on this trip to Guatemala until the morning we left. I was unable to make predeparture meetings due to work, and I felt extremely apprehensive about the whole trip the night before. Despite my feeling uneasy, our entire group started to mesh really easily within the first two days. Before the middle of the week, it felt like we had all known each other much longer than a few days. The relationships I was able to make with the people in our group helped make the trip better than I could have expected.
Additionally, though I had been on service trips before, this was the first one I had been on that required such a high degree of physical labor. When deciding which Buck-I-Serv I wanted to do, the physical labor aspect didn’t scare me, but as the trip drew closer, the idea of the trip and its physical aspects became much more daunting. While apprehensive and nervous about whether I would be able to really contribute anything to the home we were building, I gave my full effort. I was able to do a lot more than I expected myself to be able to, and I pushed myself in ways I never had before.
Finally, though there were many things that pushed me outside of my comfort zone during this trip, using what little Spanish skills I had certainly seemed to push me the most. I had taken three years of Spanish in high school, but I hadn’t practiced in nearly four years. I told myself I would brush up on Spanish before the trip, but quickly ran out of time. My Spanish was certainly not great, but I was able to understand much more than I thought I would be able to, especially at our work site with the family we were working with. I was embarrassed to try to speak back because while I could understand some, my speaking was much worse off. Despite this, I spoke as much I could with what I remembered and was able to get by with the help of our translators on the trip. My struggling with communicating with these people have shown me how much I actually want to learn Spanish and be fluent at it. All of these experiences proved to me what greatness lies just outside of my comfort zone, and I have been trying to remember this everyday when I am given opportunities to expand myself.
Why is it important?
I have many goals for myself, one of which is to go to grad school out of state after I graduate in May of 2020. I have lived in central Ohio my entire life, with my immediate family and friends within a twenty minute drive of me. I am quite literally living in my comfort zone. Though it is a goal of mine to go to grad school out of state, the thought of it terrifies me if I think about it too long. However, my trip and experiences in Guatemala with the people I met, who I never would have met if I hadn’t gone on this trip, only show me how much I need to go out of state. Going to Guatemala, something that really scared me, proved to be one of the best decisions and one of the best experiences I think I have ever had in my life. Though I had suspected, I now know that doing the things that really, truly scare me are in fact the most important things I will probably ever do.