Step out of your comfort zone and enjoy?

8 August 2022

Sometimes it’s fun to try out new things. Doing things out of your comfort zone might result in nice experiences and maybe even new hobbies. Especially when you’re starting your studies in Groningen, doing new things can be very beneficial for the rest of your time as a student. This is also what I kept in mind when I signed up for an African dance class at the ACLO a while ago. Years ago I had had some dance classes in this style, and I remember that although it’s a bit weird on the one hand, it’s also really fun and quite a workout on the other hand. The movements are very loose, so you can give all your energy and let go of the control of your body. During the class there was one person who really did this.

When I arrived there, there was this guy who started to talk to me in English, asking whether this was my first time doing African dance and what other classes I joined at ACLO. It’s probably me, but in my experience it is not very common that random people start talking to you, whether this is at the ACLO or somewhere else. I think this is something Dutch, as the Dutch are not necessarily known for their hospitality; generally we are more self-centered. If you are an international student, you might have noticed this already. The guy introduced himself (I forgot his name instantly), and mentioned that this was the second time he was following this class. I thought ‘okay, well then he knows what is expected and knows the movements already’.

Already during the warming up it became clear that my expectations of his skills were not completely right. With this I certainly do not mean to say that he was doing a bad job, rather I would describe it as interesting. As mentioned before, there was one person who really took the idea of ‘letting go of control’ very seriously, and as you can expect it was this guy who had talked to me. When everyone moved to the right, he was going left. When everyone moved up their knees, he was kicking backwards. When everyone made staccato movements with their arms, his arms were everywhere except for where they had to be.

Although this was not what I expected and I had to try my best not to laugh, I realized afterwards that this experience also gave me some new insights. First of all, this guy was having a really good time without caring about what others might think. And isn't he right? Why do we care so much about the opinions of others, while that might only restrict us? This guy really seemed to be living his best life, so the next time I’m doing an African dance class, I might as well join him and let go of control too. 

Besides, it became clear to me that trying out new things and starting a conversation with people you don’t know is certainly something good. If I hadn’t joined this class I would not have met this guy (although I can not say this with 100% certainty, but that will become clear later). As a new student in Groningen you also have to start somewhere. So I would say, sign up for that class you never joined before, go talk to people you actually don’t know and stop caring about what others might think of you. Of course this might not be as easy as it sounds, but it will eventually only be beneficial. Not only will it help you to develop possible new friendships, it will also really help you to develop yourself. And isn’t this, besides getting your degree, what studying is for?

Also, don’t worry if something is not going as you would have wanted. In case you did start a conversation with someone, but this person is not responding very friendly, know that this says more about that person than about you. Because you were one who wanted to start a friendly conversation and open up to new people. As mentioned before, the Dutch are known for being self-centered, so this could very well be the reason why someone isn’t responding that enthusiastically when you address them. So here’s also a lesson to be learned for all the Dutch students: open up! Regardless of our nationality, in the end we’re all just students who want to make the best of our time here in Groningen. So we might as well be friendly to one another. Who knows what it will result in?

To end this story full of philosophical life lessons, I want to tell you about the next day. I went to aquafit at the ACLO, and guess who was there waving at me and enjoying the class at his best?