I am scared of change. Advice?
April 29, 2010 4:43 PM   Subscribe

Got an internship in San Jose, CA. Have to move to another city for 2,5 months. Really, really, really scared about details (transportation, roommates, the actual work itself) instead of enjoying the opportunity and preparing myself for a good experience. Help?

Here it goes. I just got an internship with a very well-known company in San Jose, CA (currently living in Durham, NC). Didn't really understand how big of a deal it was until everybody started congratulating me and all... Now, I just got my ticket and sort of figured my housing situation and things got real.

I have always been the anxious/grossly over-prepared kind. I will think about what might happen and try to be cautious and prepared for everything to the point which I think is sometimes unhealthy. I am doing the same thing again. I have no family in the US. I keep asking myself: What if I get on the wrong train? What if I get lost? How will I do X by myself? What if I break my leg? What if I miss the last shuttle? What if something happens to me? Questions keep floating my brain and I get all sweaty and nervous.

I have other friends who are getting internships and they are very exited about the opportunity. They are confident and they know that they can tackle anything. And they do. I want to become like that. How do I stop worrying and enjoy opportunities?

Any advice welcome.

(Background Info: International student from Turkey, female, 20. Electrical engineering major. Doesn't know how to drive. )
posted by kuju to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you're anything like me, it might help you to have as much information and practice as possible (it is the opposite for some people - too much preparation makes them overwhelmed).

So ... how much time do you have before you have to go to San Jose? If you'll have some free time, maybe practice learning how to read a timetable and taking a train you're not familiar with, along with a friend. (If there are no trains in your area, you could do the same with a bus.)

Go to a new, unfamiliar nearby city with a friend to practice map-reading skills. Or maybe take a hike you haven't taken before, to practice the same skills. Same with doing new unfamiliar activities by yourself. Pick a few easy to medium difficulty ones while you're still there in your familiar turf.

As for not knowing anyone there in the area ... maybe schedule a meetup for your arrival?
posted by Ashley801 at 4:57 PM on April 29, 2010

It sounds to me like you *are* confident and that you already can tackle anything! At 20, you're already living away from all your family in a foreign country and studying a technical and difficult degree. I did something similar when I was 20 and my family still talks about it like moving to England (where they speak my first language) was like climbing Everest backwards and blindfolded. They'll go on and on about my bravery and confidence and courage -- but I was scared! Inside, I was terrified of doing everything wrong (I did a few things wrong) but to everyone else I looked completely together. Your friends are probably also freaking out about their internship and wondering, "How is Kuju so cool and calm about moving to San Jose!?!"

Maybe you'll get on the wrong train, so you switch back at the next stop. If you get lost, ask for directions. To satisfy your need to plan ahead, can you talk to an adviser there in Durham about students who've had the internship previously and how they found roommates and what the work was like? Plan ahead enough to be prepared, but don't constrain yourself! This is just one leg of the adventure you're already living. I can't imagine you came all the way from Turkey without these questions already, and look how much you've done since then!
posted by motsque at 4:57 PM on April 29, 2010

I can have a tendency toward the kind of anxiety you describe.

Repeat after me: do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Apply that to every situation.

What if I get on the wrong train? As soon as you realize it, get off, and use the tools available to you to get to the right one. Do not stress if you've been made late, because you can no longer change the fact that you're late. What you can do is figure out the right way to get where you're going, and take it, notifying anyone you may be meeting if possible.

What if I get lost? You can figure out where you are and where you need to be headed by using the resources around you: other people. In general, people like to help in these situations.

How will I do X by myself? At this point, figure out which Xs you're worried about. Determine what you can learn about them using the resources you've got where you are now. Learn that, then don't stress about what you can't yet learn. When you get to San Jose, figure out if there's anything else you need to learn that you couldn't before you leave.

What if I break my leg? You can call an ambulance (or ask someone to call one for you). If you don't yet know anyone else, call your internship supervisor and see if they can come to the hospital and assist you.

What if I miss the last shuttle? Now, ahead of time, you can look up the phone numbers of cab companies in San Jose. Find one that is recommended, and store the number in your phone.

What if something happens to me? You can't do anything about this. If you can't do anything about something, recognize it. Tell yourself you can't do anything about it. Think about the fact that no one can be in control all the time. Take a leap of faith. Give yourself permission not to worry about things you can't do anything about.

Obviously, nobody's perfect. We all worry about things we shouldn't. But when I catch myself worrying, I find that thinking "Do what you can with what you have where you are" helps calm me down, because it helps remind me which worries are actionable and which aren't.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:01 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

And specifically regarding not knowing how to drive: familiarize yourself with San Jose's public transportation options, know the number of a cab service, and as you meet new friends, figure out which ones have cars, live near you, would be willing to give you a ride, etc. Be extra nice to those friends.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:03 PM on April 29, 2010

Also, I'm assuming that if you're an EE interning in Silicon Valley, you're getting paid reasonably well.

For a lot of the logistics problems that you're facing, it's good to remember that they're all easy to solve with money. Miss a shuttle? Call a cab. Can't find good housing? Pay extra, and itll be easy to find. Now, you don't have to solve these problems by throwing money at them -- but knowing that you have that backup should be very reassuring to you. Practically, I'm sure you'll do fine and not miss the last shuttle -- but if you do, it's OK, you can [x,y,z] and if that fails, just call a cab. This big concern is, at worst, a $30 expense.

At least for me, thinking about things in this way makes me much less stressed. Usually, I don't need to actually fall back to the expensive backups, but knowing they are there makes life easier.
posted by bsdfish at 5:14 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

You are by yourself in foreign country doing stuff you've never done before, why shouldn't you be a little nervous? I think that's pretty normal. I think your confident friends are maybe just not letting there nervousness show. It's also important not to let your brain overthink this stuff. It's life, you face the crap as it comes and deal with it the best you can, that's all anyone can do.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:16 PM on April 29, 2010

I work in Silicon Valley at a company that hires interns (in Santa Clara, to be exact).

My company provides a lot of activities and provides a lot of support for the interns. Presumably, you're not the only intern this company will hire, correct? I suspect you'll have a pretty good support system in place through the hiring company. You could consider asking your recruiter about health care services, housing and transit options and the like before you go.

Whatever questions you have, I'm pretty sure you're not the first to ask them.

Before you do, I'd just take a deep breath and word the questions without that touch of sheer panic. If you can manage the transition from Turkey to the US, you'll do great in the transition from NC to CA.

FWIW, it's a really nice and beautiful place out here and we have nice people here too. Don't forget to plan some trips to San Francisco, Monterey, and Yosemite if you can.
posted by rw at 5:23 PM on April 29, 2010

I moved out to the bay area for a summer internship in CS when I was 20 (also female and without a car). There were lots of details, but it all worked out and I had a fun summer.

Many people find roommates and sublets on craigslist, but I was uncomfortable with renting a place on craigslist without seeing it first. Bigger management companies can often rent something to you via phone/fax, and that's what I did. Expect to pay $100-200 more per month for a short term lease (3 month or month-to-month).

Try to live within cycling distance of work, and either buy or rent a bicycle. (Stanford's bike shop has good deals for summer rentals.) This can give you more peace of mind about transportation, and will make it easier to buy groceries or get to Caltrain if you want to go to San Francisco on weekends.

If you get on the wrong train, you'll realize it and you can get off at the next stop and get on a train going the other way. I've done it; it's not much fun, but you just lose 30 minutes of time.

Is there anyone who you know at all in the area? Either friends from school going to San Jose or family friends/relatives? Try to stay in contact with them so that if something happens, you have someone to call.

memail me if you have any specific questions.
posted by asphericalcow at 5:27 PM on April 29, 2010

I second the bike idea. Our company provides bikes, then donates them when the interns leave.
posted by rw at 5:29 PM on April 29, 2010

They are confident and they know that they can tackle anything. And they do. I want to become like that. How do I stop worrying and enjoy opportunities?

Mostly by going out and tackling new opportunities. The more experience you get, the more confident you'll become that you can handle just about anything.

I worked at both Cisco and Juniper for many years. We only killed about 5% of interns, and those with our teeth. The odds are in your favor :-)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:32 PM on April 29, 2010

The biggest part of confronting new obstacles is just putting in the time to learn them.

I just moved out of San Jose, but I still work there, and I was really concerned about how I was going to adjust to a new commute, schedule and everything. At first it was a little hectic, but as I tried different approaches to commuting and planning, I eventually became comfortable (and am still becoming comfortable) with the new changes.

You'll get accustomed to your new environment and habits and schedules eventually too. It'll take some time, and you'll have a couple of hassles along the way, but it'll happen. Just have patience, be willing to experiment if something isn't working out right, and plan for things to take some extra time. Don't get too frustrated.
posted by sambosambo at 6:14 PM on April 29, 2010

I am going to be leaving on May 9th. Ahh... I am sure there will be other interns (they told me so), so that should be good. I opted against a hotel (didn't want to add more loneliness to my already existing one [negative yet again - why do I do this??!!]). Cannot ride the bike either. Fail.

On another note, I really like the idea of answering all the questions in my head. Helps me untangle that floating ball of vague questions and lets me focus on one real problem at a time. I am definitely going to try that.

Thank you all for helping me calm down. I really appreciate it.
posted by kuju at 6:24 PM on April 29, 2010

So I think your question is more about how to stop worrying rather then the specific issues you mention.

First, that sort of anxiety is normal, and natural considering your situation. You are just like everybody else.

Second, if you are the planner, write down every step, and your three biggest anxieties about each step. Then detail how you'd deal with them. Your anxiety seems to be from all the things you can't control that could go wrong. You can't control the world, but you can plan for it. It may be that planning helps you deal with the anxiety.

Third, there are plenty of friend groups out there to support you. Turkish american groups, EE groups, MeFi meetups, stuff for your work, facebook groups for your school alumni etc.. You may feel that your going someplace where you know nobody... that doesn't mean you can't arrange to make friends even before you go.

Fourth, think back to other things that made you worry. I'm sure when you moved to the U.S. that was a difficult experience... at first. In general I think anxiety tends to be an issue leading up to events, but when you actually have started them, it tends to diminish. Try to remember that.
posted by gryftir at 6:28 PM on April 29, 2010

I can understand your anxieties, and I think that in the circumstances it's totally normal.

But to do a quick check: you have a job lined up, you're working on housing and you have transportation to get there. You have the big issues covered!

Most of the mistakes that you mention (getting lost, taking the wrong train) are easily corrected. Many people have done at least some of these things and they were fine; some people (ahem) have done them more than once.

This is silly, but I repeat the following check like a mantra when I'm travelling, and it calms the worst of my fears: ticket, money, keys, passport. Ticket, money, keys, passport... If you have those things, you have the most important bases covered.

If you can manage the transition from Turkey to the US, you'll do great in the transition from NC to CA.

I strongly second this. It sounds like you are way more sussed than you think you are; give yourself credit for that.

I'm sure you'll have a great summer. Good luck!
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 7:25 PM on April 29, 2010

I am someone prone to anxiety around unfamiliar situations. And yet, I've made major moves, done tons of international travel on my own and constantly try out new things. Yes, the anxiety is still there but I do it anyway. For me, these are the key things that make it possible:

1. Feel as prepared as I can. Do as much research as possible. Mostly for me this now boils down to having some idea of my physical surroundings (maps are key; Google Street View is my godsend!) and what my schedule might be like. Sure these things change, but having a few physical and temporal touchstones is comforting. I might get lost, but at least I'm lost in a place where the streetnames sound familiar.

2. Know that, as someone said above, most problems can be solved with cash. When I moved to NYC I wandered around all the time but I figured, well, if I get lost I'll just get a cab and take it home. And now with cell phones, having a way to call someone and say "What the hell am I supposed to do now?" also makes it easier to let myself untether a little bit. A little prep kit - maps, phone (and maybe a printed list of numbers in case the phone fails), some ready cash, a notebook and pen, etc. - makes me feel like I have what I would need just in case.

3. Realize at some point shit is gonna go down. Something could very well go wrong. But I also know that I'm a smart, logical person and I will survive it. So few things I'm ever going to likely encounter are unsurvivable and everything else I've prepared for so there's nothing else to do but enjoy it.

3b. Realize that people WAY DUMBER THAN ME have done this all JUST FINE before. It's kind of a weird psych-out but hey, whatever works. For many years I used the inexplicable ability of Britney Spears to not only not choke on her own tongue on a daily basis but actually achieve fame and fortune to motivate me in a variety of circumstances because she is DUMBER THAN ROCKS and I am not so what is my problem anyway?!

And maybe this isn't true for you but for me, I'm fine once I'm there. So it's really just a very few moments I have to get through (or, in your case, until May 9th) and then it's here and I'm just carried along with it. The more you do these things, the less anxiety you'll feel (and the corollary is true also - the more you avoid the more it builds up) because you'll have good experiences (or even just experiences you've survived, good or bad) to build on.

Good luck!
posted by marylynn at 8:09 PM on April 29, 2010

It's possible to get lost here, but it's kind of hard given the geography. You can almost always orient yourself by where the (very small) mountains are. One confusing bits for newcomers are directions, which differ from compass directions. In local-speak, "North" often means "up the Peninsula, towards San Francisco," which is actually off to the North East. Given bends in the highway, you'll actually finding yourself going physically East, with that being called "Northbound". True North from San Jose take you up the East side of the bay. You'll get used to that after a bit.

There are three very distinctive trains in the area that are hard to get confused. In San Jose, you'll only have to deal with two of them (CalTrain, which runs between San Jose and San Francisco, and Light Rail, which starts in San Jose and runs mostly through tech areas and into Mountain View.

If you or a friend are AAA members, arrange to get a map of the area to look over.
posted by dws at 8:50 PM on April 29, 2010

I think most everyone here has given some pretty good advice for you. I just wanted to point out this statement of from your OP: "I have other friends who are getting internships and they are very exited about the opportunity. They are confident and they know that they can tackle anything." I'd have to say that you are excited about the opportunity. Being nervous is a form of pent-up energy, just like being excited. That may sound like silly semantics, but my point is to realize that these feelings are not because of something you lack (the ability to be excited about change) but an expression of your feelings towards that excitement. You're worried about this thing that is making you excited and that's leading to anxiety. Once you've realized this, try to recognize that energy for what it is without labeling it as good or bad. I mean, OMG, anything could happen! You could meet the love of your life, land your dream job, meet some incredibly inspiring people, invent something wonderful and/or break your leg. Exciting, isn't it?

The second part of that statement has to do with other people. As you probably already know, that's an area that's just ripe for misinterpretation. How do you know they are so confident? Appearances can be deceiving. For most people, they usually are. So, stop worrying that they are better than you somehow. Some of them are faking it, some of them are in different situations that allow them to appreciate it more and none of them should matter to how you feel about your situation. If they were all anxiety-ridden about their internships would you feel bad if you weren't? No. So, screw 'em. On the other hand, if one of your friends has told you specifically that they are confidently excited about their future, it might be cool to hear their reasons. Then imagine all of the benefits, all those things that they are looking forward to that he or she describes as being available to you.

If none of the above helps, or perhaps in conjunction with it, try to logically and completely answer your own questions. Set them up as role-playing games where you have to imagine all of the characters, what the environment is like and how you can best respond. You're smart, you can figure it out. I'd say you'll soon have to make your hypothetical situations even more outlandish just to keep yourself interested. What if you forget your keys to your apartment? You'd call the building manager on your cell phone. But wait, you left your cell phone inside, too! Now, I'm sure you can think five or more different ways you can resolve that situation. Think each of them through - or maybe just the best one. Then, take note that even in this hypothetical Very Bad Situation, you didn't die or really even suffer more than an inconvenience. This type of worrying is called "planning ahead". It sounds like you do it already and it's perfectly healthy.

Lastly, if you have one free day, a bike and a friend, you can learn to ride a bike. Or, heck, just get a trike when you're out there - they are common enough these days. Having your own means of transportation will be empowering.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 12:03 AM on April 30, 2010

when i was not much older than you are i moved to japan, where i didn't have a license/car and didn't know how to ride a bike. if i could manage there, all alone in a new job and new country in the countryside, and figure out all the buses and trains, you can most certainly figure out san jose. i get where you're coming from- i was super nervous before i left, but things were totally fine for me. better than fine, even!

if ever you get lost, just go into a store or something and ask. carry around little maps of the lightrail, caltrain, bart, etc. personally i think it's hard to get around san jose (i live nearby) without a car but it can be done, i know someone who moved here 3 years ago and still doesn't have a car. she uses the lightrail to get to work and friends/coworkers/boyfriend routinely pick her up and give her rides.
posted by raw sugar at 9:58 AM on April 30, 2010

« Older A kinder, gentler atheism?   |   How do you pump concrete? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.