Waving goodbye to my relatives and friends as I walked through the departure gate of the airport is a flash of memory I will never forget. I knew everything would change from that point forward, and I didn’t feel ready for it.
Leaving your home and going to a new place for college can be scary, but it’s even scarier when your home is 6,568 miles away.
I can’t believe that it has been already three years since I moved to the U.S. Sometimes, it feels like I have been living here forever, and sometimes I feel like that I just got off the plane. These three years have not only changed me greatly, but they have also made me realize the importance of not being scared of changes in life.
The first seventeen years of my life, I lived in my home country, Armenia. Armenia is a small beautiful country in Eastern Europe. Geographically, it is so small that you can hardly see it on the map. But historically, it’s one of the world's oldest countries with an enormous cultural heritage.
In Armenia, I was living in the capital city, Yerevan, where I was always surrounded by my friends, relatives and the overall warmness of the people from the small city. That’s why, when my parents decided that we need to move to the U.S. for me and my brother to receive a better education, I was horrified that I was going to lose it all.
Getting education abroad is something that I always dreamed of. But when the time came to actually do it, I didn’t feel ready for it. I wasn’t ready to go out of my comfort zone and leave the warmness of my Armenia. I felt very negative about the new changes that were going to happen in my life, instead of being grateful and finding value in them.
Now, it’s been almost three years, and I realize how wrong I was.
These three years in the U.S. have taught me how important it is to be open to changes. Our world is full of different places and adventures, and in order to experience them, we need to be ready to go out of our comfort zones.
Living here has taught me that the distance doesn’t matter. I was so scared that I would lose touch with my friends and relatives, but now I know that and no matter where you are, the people who really do care about you will always be by your side. Surely, things will change when you are gone. There was a literal revolution in Armenia while I was here, but our revolution is another example of how amazing changes can be.
Living here has also given me the opportunity to make friends with many new amazing people. I have met so many people who have supported me along the way and I couldn’t do this all without them. A place is good only when people are good, and the people I met here have been great. I have met people from many different, unique and amazing cultures. I have made friends with many of them, learned so much from them, and I am still learning every day.
Most importantly, the U.S. has taught me how to be independent. I have learned to see challenges as opportunities to grow stronger. It has made me more adaptable, confident and autonomous. When I first came here, I knew almost no one. Even though it was hard at first, it taught me to trust and depend on myself more. Now, I’ve become so accustomed to change that it’s the prospect of staying still that scares me.
If I didn’t move here, I also wouldn’t get to go to school at the University of Portland, which has been one of the most significant parts of my journey here. Before UP, I felt lost and unsure of what I wanted to do in life. The amazing professors and people that I have met at UP have all been very caring and supportive. They have taught me that as long as you put hard work and passion into what you are doing, you will be able to achieve your goals.
Three years since I came here feeling scared and lost, I feel more confident than ever before. Now, instead of feeling homesick, I know that my home is always one plane ticket away. This summer I am going to visit my homeland, Armenia, but it’s not going to feel like an escape to my comfort zone for me. The changes I have been through here helped me to grow and realize that our comfort zone should be within ourselves. I have also learned that it’s okay to miss home and at the same time feel like you are home somewhere else.
When you have the opportunity to explore new places and new things, pack your suitcases and your head full of dreams, and let the thrill of the unknown be stronger than your comfort zone. Being open to change, is like being open to the growth within yourself. To quote Gail Sheehy, “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”
Anush Hakobyan is a reporter at the Beacon and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.