By Lisa Kaufman, a member of the SkillCorps® India July 2018 team

When I first applied to Global Autism Project, I did not know what I was getting myself into. I did, however, have quite a few expectations. I was going to make a difference in the lives of individuals with autism. I was going to immerse myself in a culture different from my own. I was going to learn a lot, whatever that meant. Expectations.

As my trip grew closer, I realized I had no idea what to expect. And that was a problem for me. You see, I like to know what comes next. I get anxious and feel very out of my comfort zone when I don’t.

Ahh, comfort zones. “Step out of your comfort zone,” I discovered, is one of SkillCorps’ mottos. Sometimes we are pushed intentionally, other times by circumstance. For example: Day 1. Newark airport. Not even out of the country, yet. Our leader is unexpectedly unable to fly with us. What?! We can’t possibly fly without her! We have to cancel the trip! No, we only have to feel uncomfortable.

We get through it. Fourteen hours later our driver takes us to the hotel in Delhi where armed guards check under the hood and trunk for guns and bombs, then we go through airport-security-type baggage scans and metal detectors, then have our passports scanned before getting the keys to our rooms. I get lost in the elevator trying to find my teammates and end up at a wedding. Expectations blown to pieces. Comfort zone nowhere to be seen.

We have now been in India for a week, and my expectations are constantly being challenged, my comfort zone shifting. At the center SOREM, we meet some amazing students who can sit and wait like nobody’s business! They walk in from recess without complaint. They hold each other’s hands. They smile, say hi, take your hand, and laugh. The teachers ask us probing questions because they are eager to learn. We visit a beautiful lake at the foothills of the Hymalayas and watch a breathtaking sunset. The director invites us to her home for one of the most amazing meals I have ever eaten in my life. We attended a talk on mindfulness where we discussed, you guessed it, expectations. I expected none of this. Sometimes, expectations can get in the way of learning, of growing, of stepping out of our comfort zones. Thank you, India, for shattering mine.