Reflecting Back

Reflection post from student Mia Silverio:

Earlier this semester, my yoga instructor said that her goal for the New Year was to be more vulnerable, because when we open up, we have the most impactful and authentic experiences. Her resolution stuck with me and has become something that I’ve thought about a lot as I reflect back on my 3.75 years at Georgetown. I realized, despite the many adventures and challenges that I’ve had on campus, the time that I was most vulnerable was my semester abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Perhaps not coincidentally, I feel that experience has taught me the most about myself, my values, and how I keep going when the going gets tough.

Among other things, being vulnerable means being open and honest with yourself and others about your feelings, needs, and expectations. It is often associated with weakness, a connotation that foolishly ignores the strength that it takes to be vulnerable. It is far easier to shield your insecurities from the world and far safer to confine your emotions to yours or society’s expectations.

I stepped onto a plane bound for Buenos Aires with the conviction that I would go through this potentially scary time with the same mental and emotional fortitude that I exhibited at Georgetown and considered part of my identity. I was used to grinding through the hard times and sucking it up when I was scared or upset. I thought going abroad would be no different.

I was wrong. From conversing with strangers in Spanish, to navigating public transportation on my 45-minute commutes, to attempting comprehension in chaotic classes, there was hardly a moment that I felt at ease. On one especially problematic day, my host family’s cat peed on my suitcase, I got hopelessly lost on a run, took the subway in the wrong direction, and was misunderstood in almost every conversation I had. I was tired, embarrassed, and sick of feeling so incompetent. Unable to do much else, I called my mom in the middle of a University of Buenos Aires building and sobbed that this was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. Admitting that I felt defeated – and terrified and frustrated – didn’t mean that I was. In fact, this helped me gain perspective and the strength to start again.

Then things started looking up. My host mom and sister were fantastic Spanish teachers and became like real family. I befriended a great group of international students with whom I traveled to soaring, snow-capped mountains and colorful desserts. And, I finally got the hang of my classes and the subway system. It wasn’t easy, but I found my place in the patchwork fabric of Buenos Aires.

Had I not allowed myself to be vulnerable – to be comforted and reassured by my family at home, my host family, and my new friends – I would not have made the same connections with Buenos Aires and its people, and I would certainly not have improved my Spanish as I did.

Bene Brown, an acclaimed writer and researcher, wrote, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” Going to Argentina gave me the opportunity to be totally vulnerable and thus to understand truths and courage in myself that I may never have otherwise discovered. I urge students reading this to consider a semester abroad – it is a monumental experience.

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