Please describe a time when you found the courage to step outside of your comfort zone to do something unexpected and completely unlike you. Why did you take this risk? What have you learned from the experience?

Ireland was nothing like I had expected. Living in a small Irish city with my aunt and uncle for two months was much easier than it could have been. I wasn’t a total stranger, nor did I have to survive on my own. I was never homesick. There was no need to adjust to a language barrier. No, the most difficult aspect of the entire stay was something I could just as easily have done in Chicago: babysitting. When my aunt requested me to be a summer au pair for her two young children, I was hesitant. I had never babysat before, and had never wanted to. Though many of my friends had regular babysitting jobs, and seemed to enjoy them, I was usually hesitant and shy with children, and would seek out any other option for an income rather than babysitting. However, the benefits of spending two months in Ireland were too tempting to pass up. The first day took me by surprise. “I’m bored,” Rita, the older of the two declared, sitting down next to me. Bored? This was the last thing I had expected. I couldn’t remember ever being bored when I was her age. “Well,” I replied slowly, stalling for time while I searched for a cure for her boredom in my head. I couldn’t think of one. “Well, what do you want to do?” “I don’t know,” she shrugged. Inside, I started to panic. This was not what I had signed up for, I thought to myself. Are they normally bored? What am I supposed to do? Do I really have nine hours left of this today? And again tomorrow? I began suggesting random things, but nothing satisfied her. “Can I watch TV?” she finally asked. Inside, I sighed with relief. “Sure, go ahead,” I agreed. She ran off, and I immediately retrieved a sheet of paper and a pen to write down a list of every possible thing to do inside on a rainy day, which it almost always was in Ireland.Other challenges followed. I learned through trial and error how to cook healthy meals that they would both enjoy, how to resolve both minor disputes and serious conflicts, how to convince them to try new activities that were more interesting than sitting in front of the television, and how to be responsible for more than just myself. The younger of the two children was adopted from China and developmentally challenged, and I often had to help her with speech and communication. Though each long day was confusing and difficult at first, they became easier as the weeks went by. By the end of the two months, I felt like I could confidently handle any babysitting job thrown my way. Now, several months later, I am back in Chicago and have a regular babysitting job, which I enjoy. I am glad to have learned that getting over a fear can lead to unexpected benefits and even enjoying the task that I originally dreaded.

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