Testing my comfort zone abroad

by Zach Engberg, International Staff Writer

If someone told me two-and-a-half years ago that I would be spending this semester in Rotterdam, I don’t know if I would have believed them.

Despite the fact that I was insistent, and that my mom was even more persuasive, I have a long and thick history of being, for lack of a better term, full of sh-t.

I am the king of empty promises, not to others as much as to myself.

Considering my attitude when I first began at San Diego State, I would have never thought of myself as able to withstand this journey.

I was somewhat right.

While it has improved over the past few years, anxiety is still something that I struggle with on a daily basis.

It is a phenomenon that is hard for me to qualify or explain, but the best way I can describe it is this: Some days, it is challenging for me to get out of bed and take on the world.

Some days I am scared of even the simplest tasks, like going to class, calling my parents or making breakfast.

My freshman year, this anxiety was only heightened.

At first, I kind of liked it, it was more uncertainty than it was fear.

Not knowing anyone at school, not entirely sure of where my life was headed or the person I would become was exhilarating for the first few months.

That was the feeling that I wanted to relive abroad, coming to a new place, with brand new people, not knowing exactly what I am doing or how it would change me.

And I got that, when I couldn’t sleep and had to share a hostel with smelly old men.

I even woke up one morning realizing I had blacked out, fallen over, cut my head, spent the night on my friend’s floor in front of the bathroom with a bucket on my head and sent a string of embarrassing, self-hating and nearly unintelligible messages to opinion editor and future editor-in-chief Andrew Dyer.

But that pit of fear in my gut, that little voice in the back of my head telling me to “worry, worry, worry … overthink, overthink, overthink” never really goes away.

It may take a nap once in awhile, may go out for a drink, but always comes back.

It is very loyal, and it makes for some very bad days.

This is something I have always struggled with, but never with these circumstances.

At least in middle and high school, when it was at its most debilitating, after a rough day I could go home, see my mom or my dad, depending on the day, eat some homemade spaghetti and meatballs or my dad’s famous chili mac, a dish where he mises a box of Kraft mac & cheese and a can of chili and watch an Oakland Athletics game or an episode of Spongebob with my family.

Even in college, it was always nice to come back to my dorm or my apartment or my house and see my friends, play some basketball, or even go to the newsroom.

But out here, I feel more vulnerable.

There is no real comfort zone for me, no place I can feel rested or at peace.

That is, however, part of why I came out here, if not the underlying reason, to test my comfort zone.

But it makes dealing with my anxiety much more challenging.

It is sad too, because I spend time dreading things and overthinking things that I could be using to travel and better myself and experience new things.

I will say though, that the bad days make the good days that much more enjoyable, I know they are fleeting.

There are some little moments during the day that help lift my spirits, the bike ride through the park back to my house, waking up in the morning and seeing Snapchats from my friends back home or remembering I have stroopwafel in my cupboard.

This is not all to say that I regret studying abroad, I thank my lucky stars everyday I had the guts and the support system to do it, even though, as it turns out, I didn’t have the money to.

But it hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t been what I imagined it would be.

But here’s to two more crazy, uneasy, unpredictable months in the land of legal weed.

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you all, or the few of you who are actually reading this, I’ll tell you my number one city I have experienced so far: It’s Amsterdam.