The Power of the Notes App

I have a Notes app entry called “Georgia Chaos Log” where I chronicle every challenging  or humorous moment of my abroad experience that I don’t want to forget. Some of these entries include helping my host mom put out a kitchen fire, conspiracy theories about Americans that I hear, or getting hit with a door so hard I fell down a flight of stairs. I started this Notes app as a way to cope with everyday challenges but also as a way to reflect and laugh and feel proud of myself in retrospect. 

But in revisiting my “Georgia Chaos Log” so far, I have realized that the biggest challenge I have faced in Georgia is not necessarily one big thing, but instead the combined weight of a lot of little things. 

It is the embarrassment of misunderstanding the marshrutka driver in the morning, answering a phone call from your host mom that you only half understand, dropping something important in the street on the way to class, not understanding the grammar lesson, struggling with imposter syndrome, the shopkeeper saying mean things about foreigners in Georgian, and being one lari coin short of being able to take a taxi home. 

The challenge does not lie in any specific moment throughout the day. But when taken together, everything feels altogether too much to bear. 

Sometimes the most difficult part of studying abroad is this moment of adjustment when Murphy’s Law is in play and when the unfamiliarity exists in aggregate. I think that feeling overwhelmed by small failures or culture shocks is completely normal, if not one of the most important parts of stepping outside your comfort zone and living abroad. 

Growth occurs in the midst of discomfort.

This is why I love my “Georgia Chaos Log.” Study abroad is undoubtedly going to be difficult. There will always be moments of discomfort, frustration, and doubt. But I think that having a way to acknowledge that something is difficult and then being able to reflect on it later not only minimizes the power these bad days hold over you, but it also is something to laugh about when people inevitably ask about your time abroad.

I’ve learned through my days of Georgian Chaos more about myself, my cultural identity, values, and about my capacity to persevere than I ever would have if I stayed in my home country. I say to all students about to embark on their journeys or are in the midst of their own Chaos Log that the challenge is a part of the experience. Find something that helps you reframe your difficulties and ground you. And always laugh after the fact. 

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