Estela Meraza: Be courageous
This had been a very special year in my life; I accomplished a dream I had for some year now. Ten years ago, when I was starting my Bachelor degree in Mexico City, I pictured myself doing a post-graduate program in a country far away from home.
Europe was always in my top of mind. I wanted to live in an environment with a different mindset and ways to conceptualize life. Europe seemed the perfect match. Therefore, after some working experience and savings made, I decided to accomplish my goal and pursue a Master degree at Utrecht University. Although coming to the Netherlands was not a straightforward decision, The Netherlands had a good balance between innovation and entrepreneurship, internationally oriented and English friendly country. My previous work experience gave me the clarity to pinpointed entrepreneurship as my field of interest. Once I had this clear, I applied to a Master in Business Development and Entrepreneurship.
When I finally arrived in Utrecht, I wanted to know everything about this city. After all, compared to Mexico City, Utrecht is quite small and seemed feasible to know every corner of it. The first time I walked around Utrecht, I got caught by its cuteness and lively ambience. As an explorer, I started by following some social media accounts with recommendations about the city. I biked along the water side, took long walks through the alleys and spotted some highlights. After just two months of living in Utrecht, I was aware of the new openings, special events and local apps that makes life easier or happier. People told me that I was getting more expert than they were about their own city.
During the process of discovering Utrecht, I learn a lot about myself. My priorities and interest became very clear. It was like this new context allowed me to make new choices in life. Just thinking about what would make me happier, rather than follow expectations according to my Mexican home. Then I felt it, exploring was giving energy. My explorer spirit was not only about the city, but also about my new University.
The new opportunities excited me, it was a very good feeling to be in the beginning of a learning experience. Before applying to Utrecht University, I did my research about entrepreneurial opportunities. As soon as possible, I found my way to connect with UtrechtInc and student associations related with entrepreneurial activities. I found all sort of choices posted, including companies’ challenges or networking opportunities. This is how I found an excited challenge to work together with startups in the health industry as student advisor, and I immediately applied. While doing this, I found out that must of my classmates were not aware of these entrepreneurial opportunities. This was an “aha moment”, I realized that my curiosity was a big driver for me.
The learning cycle of my exploring experience took me to new places, new people and new challenges. I recognized that this exploring mode takes out my courage. I got involved in a variety of activities, that otherwise wouldn’t do it. I discovered more about how I adapt to new contexts, which roles do I normally take, what my comfort zone is and how I cope with awkwardness. Sometimes the discomfort was as trivial as not like understanding anything within a dance or sport class. The instructions were in Dutch. So, I just followed and imitated the rest. Or as challenging as riding my bike for 50 kilometers in a row around the city in the first month, even if I was not used to it as I am today.
Today I appreciate and cherish this opportunity of self-discovery through exploring a new world. I am sure that this experience have reinforced my core values and willingness to enjoy life no matter what situation I meet. After this experience, I am keen on encourage others, to explore more and open themselves to new opportunities. I find very joyful to keep discovering one-self and have a better understanding of who I am and what do I stand for.
I believe it is worth the awkwardness to explore more. I want to get surprised about how our “normal life” is not normal at all in different contexts. This awareness let me be more flexible in my own paradigms and let myself be driven by curiosity when I met new people. Therefore, I want to embark in this new mission: inspire people to look further than their own context, be courageous to explore more and open-up to opportunities waiting for them.
“You must go on adventures to find out where you truly belong” Sue Fitzmaurice
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