Like many of us, leaving his hometown and traveling to a new city felt a little scary to Sebastian, a high school student who traveled to Spain with EF Educational Tours . But sometimes the best way to overcome that fear is allowing yourself to just get a little lost in this “super, tiny, big, huge, small world.”
Want to know where he went from there?
The team at EF caught up with Sebastian, then a psychology major at the University of Puerto Rico, a few years later. On a daily basis, he was attending classes, meeting with his professors and classmates, and exploring the island with his friends. While those may seem like common activities for a college student, they’re activities that Sebastian once only dreamed of participating in. Before traveling to Spain , Sebastian suffered from social anxiety. Daily tasks like walking through the grocery store were crippling to him, and the idea of traveling abroad was terrifying—but he now attributes a handful of his successes to that experience.
In high school, Sebastian attended a school for the arts and was most interested in architecture. He assumed he would study architectural design when he went off to college. In Spain, he was excited to see the real-life version of the images he’d spent hours poring over in his textbooks. “I loved that I got to put into practice what I had learned in the classroom, but I didn’t feel a sort of passion for it,” Sebastian explained.
But on his trip, something interesting happened: Sebastian’s experiences abroad triggered a new interest in social psychology. Immersed in a new culture , he became increasingly curious and eager to understand how different cultures thought of themselves and how they perceived others who were not part of their day-to-day culture. And most importantly, he wanted to understand what it was that influenced their thinking and behavior.
“It was just so interesting to see how people in cities around the world were exposed to different cultural traditions and influences,” he reflected. “That experience made me want to know how the human mind works.”
But the trip didn’t only change his course of study; it changed his outlook on life. Looking back on the experience, Sebastian realized that the trip was also a kick start to overcoming his social anxiety. “It’s been a long process, and it can be annoying, but today, I can go to the supermarket and not fear what everyone thinks about me. I just live; I embrace the moment.”
The trip forced Sebastian to realize that he could put himself out there, that he was brave and capable of overcoming any obstacle that came his way. Stepping outside of his comfort zone forced him to accept the fact that he needed to be willing to push himself. He realized that if he could do it in Spain, he could do it anywhere … including—and, maybe most importantly—at home