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When I used to hear my name being called on in class to answer a question, my face would flush red. My chest would tighten up and breathing seemed like the most difficult thing to do. I feared that I would be judged, criticized, and evaluated based on what I said.
And when the professors said the words “group” and “discussion” in the same sentence, I would feel butterflies in the pit of my stomach. Group discussions were my worst nightmare. Any kind of conversation seemed like torture.
When I came to Arcadia last semester, I didn’t just pack my bags. I also packed my anxiety with me. I have lived with anxiety for as long as I can remember. I constantly worry about what other people might think about me.
Knowing that class participation plays a huge role in American education, I was already nervous. Just the thought of speaking in front of people would make my heart pound like I had just run a marathon. Having suffered from social anxiety pretty much my entire life, I worried about how I would participate in class.
Although I was super excited for the first day of class, I was also dreading it. Introductions were something I wasn’t very fond of, but I got through them on the first day. The next day my professor asked, “What do you think about this reading?” And there it was, the question I was hoping to avoid.
Despite having a lot to say about the reading, I hesitated to share what was on my mind. I didn’t speak at all in class that day. I listened to what everyone else had to say and wished that I could be part of the discussion. The next day, I told myself that I wouldn’t let my anxiety stop me, so I mustered all the courage that was within me and raised my hand to answer the question. It felt great to finally say what I’d been thinking. After that, I constantly kept pushing myself.
A huge part of the credit goes to my professors at Arcadia. All of my professors accommodate and acknowledge the different personality types of their students, which is not how it was back in high school. My travel literature professor, Matthew Heitzman, shares his own experiences of when he was in college. He told us that he feared speaking in class, too. Just the thought that my professor went through the same thing that I go through is comforting.
As each day passes, my fear for public speaking keeps decreasing. I keep reminding myself that not everyone gets the opportunity to study abroad and that I should make the most of it. I actually ended up getting an A in my public speaking class, which I consider to be one of my biggest accomplishments. And if that wasn’t enough, my professor gave me a gift card for delivering the most persuasive speech.
If a year ago, someone would have told me that I would be able to deliver speeches in front of people without panicking, I wouldn’t have believed it. Arcadia has helped me come out of my shell. I’ve learned to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.