From Homebody to Adventure Seeker: How Getting Out of My Comfort Zone Changed My Perspective On Life by Baillie
29 Mar 2018 12:47 PM
I never thought I’d want to leave the Midwest. I had always been a homebody, and the thought of even leaving Minnesota to go to Iowa was a huge deal (it’s really not, I know). During my spring semester of sophomore year, I received the weekly Psych Advising bulletin. I wasn’t expecting for much to “speak to me”, but then I came across an opportunity that would change my life. I came across an advertisement for “Undergraduate Summer Workshop in the Interdisciplinary Mind and Brain Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.”
I can definitely say that I fell in LOVE with the Upenn campus!
I quickly applied and requested my letters of recommendation from some faculty. I received an email from their program director about a month after applying and I was ECSTATIC to have been accepted.
After thinking through my acceptance I realized, wait...I have never been to Philadelphia before and I don’t know anybody. This initial unease was quickly overcome by realizing that I would have the opportunity to hear lectures from distinguished researchers in psychology, participate in labs and labs tours, as well as learn about career and professional development. The cherry on top was that the program was free. The program paid for my travel expenses, housing, and provided me with a meal plan for the two weeks that I would be there.
When I arrived to Pennsylvania, I quickly made new friends and began networking with science faculty. Each day we were provided with a catered breakfast before listening to a series of lectures by faculty of various departments and areas of research. Every night, graduate students would take us on an “adventure”. Our adventures consisted of art museums, Chinatown, a farmer’s market, and even a Philly cheese steak tasting night. I was doing a lot of learning, but I was also having a blast immersing myself in Philadelphia’s culture and its people. I even discovered my favorite park ever (Spruce Street Harbor Park) where I spent a lot of time eating ice cream and taking naps in a hammock.
My experience in Philadelphia was life changing. I finally found the courage to step out of my comfort zone and venture off into a new place where I knew absolutely no one.
Spruce Street Harbor Park aka my favorite park of all time.
This research experience also opened up many new doors for me. This summer I chose to apply to full summer REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) programs. Luckily, I was accepted into the University of Vermont SNURF (Summer Neuroscience Undergraduate Research Fellowship) program and offered a full-time internship for the summer conducting research on brain changes in menopausal women with the help of fMRI image analysis. I’ve never been to Vermont, but I’m so excited for the experiences that will come out of my summer. It’s honestly funny to imagine how different my life would be today if I never would’ve left my comfort zone. After graduation, I’m hoping to say “peace out, Midwest” so that I can see all that the world has to offer.
Authentic Ethiopian dinner for one of our nightly adventures (so delicious).
Tips for getting involved in research during undergrad:
- Check out your college’s weekly bulletin posts for research opportunities on and off campus.
- Look up an area of research in which you’re interested and identify ISU faculty in that department. Send them a quick (& professional) email and see if they’re looking for undergraduate assistants.
- Visit https://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/ or https://www.aamc.org/members/great/61052/great_summerlinks.html for a list of summer programs!