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Reflections from a Scholar: Abhay Sankar

We all love to be comfortable; soft cushions, warm baths, and pleasant company are all things we greatly enjoy. We avoid uncomfortable actions, like making eye contact with strangers in the elevator or taking cold showers, all because they require more courage than lazing around would. Within our zone of comfort, we believe that no harm can ever come to us. But what happens when we step outside that zone and into the lands of discomfort?

This February, I was pretty comfortable sitting on my cushioned chair in the atrium of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. We watched as our next speaker, Dr. Kathy Naasz, took the stage. The first thing Dr. Naasz remarked in her speech was that to succeed in life, we must learn to become comfortable with discomfort. As a young college graduate, Dr. Naasz waited outside Bell Labs—her dream company—for eight hours to gain an interview. Bell Labs offered her the job. She credited her success to putting herself out there in an uncomfortable situation that allowed her to land the job of her dreams.

Some time after her speech, we started a speed networking event. After being split into groups of around six Scholars, we were assigned a STEM professional whom we would receive fifteen minutes to network with. This activity forced us to become comfortable with the uncomfortable, as holding a conversation with each professional about their lives for the full fifteen minutes was a scary task for many, myself included. It would be much easier to quietly listen as the person spoke, but I took Dr. Naasz’s advice and engaged actively and asked questions. Although it was awkward for the first few minutes, I began to greatly appreciate taking the risk and making myself uncomfortable. Those short minutes of discomfort were greatly outweighed by the vast amount of knowledge I learned from each professional. The full range of STEM was within my grasp as soon as I put myself out there. And thus I realized the importance of acclimating to discomfort, for taking the risk and making myself uncomfortable paid off immensely.

Written by Abhay Sankar

2022-2023 Scholar

Abhay Sankar is a sophomore at Bridgewater-Raritan High School. He is a cofounder and lead member of his school's Space Phenomena club, which seeks to introduce unfamiliar students to the wonders outside our planet. Abhay is the lead presenter of the club as well, which means he organizes slideshows and other lessons to further deepen the members' knowledge of topics. He also explores his STEM passion as a member of the Future Health Professionals of America (FHLA) club, where he participates in weekly discussions on various events in the medical field. As Abhay aspires to work in the health field, he is very passionate about working with other members on various projects. He has assisted FHLA by spearheading bake sales and fundraisers for several medical charities. Outside of STEM, Abhay enjoys playing his guitar, a passion he has held for many years.


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