Julia Hoffman: Expectations vs Reality

316 421 Ellen Ensher
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Julia Hoffman in Greece

Prior to leaving for the Odyssey program, I retained minimal expectations regarding class structure, social scene, and the local community. For the last several years, I have preferred to keep lower expectations for everything, whether that be for other people or even myself, so that I won’t be disappointed. I am aware it may not the best mindset to have, and I do know I am an intelligent and capable woman, but I would rather be “really happy” to obtain a goal that I didn’t quite believe was possible than be disappointed when something I really wanted to happen didn’t work out. The only goals I had for myself were to use this as an opportunity to be more comfortable alone, I knew this would be possible to achieve especially since this was my first time traveling without any sort of adult supervision to another country.

I am grateful and fortunate enough to have done a decent amount of international traveling with my family from a young age. I have always loved to explore new places and try new things, so studying abroad was something I knew wanted to do in college. Before the program started, I spend a week with my friend traveling to Barcelona and Rome spending three nights in each city. It was a very enriching experience as both cities are abundant with new foods to try and activities to do. We spent most of our days walking all around the cities making sure to hit all the typical tourist sites as well as recommended restaurants from our friends and families. I was confident in my abilities to navigate a new, foreign city but was a little nervous to be traveling with my friend who can be directionally challenged at times. I had to remind myself to remain calm and that we would be able to figure our way out of any situation we found ourselves in. Our last night in Rome before my friend flew back to Los Angeles and I flew to Athens, we found ourselves in a bit of a tricky situation. My friend’s flight was at 6am while mine wasn’t until 11am, we had planned to leave separately for the airport until my friend’s phone broke a few hours before her flight. Not knowing how else to help, we ended up rushing back to our hostel and quickly packing everything up into our suitcases and calling a taxi to the airport around three in the morning. My friend was luckily able to access her boarding pass from her computer, but I was left alone in the airport for about seven hours before my flight took off. I was certainly not expecting any of the events that occurred in those twelve hours, but it sure makes for a good story!

In class we studied the expectancy theory and how it affects how we make our decisions. It argues that the choices you make are typically directed away from negative outcomes and towards positive ones. There are three different aspects of expectancy theory that we tend to implement in our decision making that stem from our past of what we’ve experienced and what we’ve learned from those experiences: expectancy, instrumentality, and valence. Expectancy represents the belief that working harder will result in success of what you wish to achieve. While in Greece, I have been making a larger effort to go outside and explore new places even if I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep or still have homework to complete, I wanted to prioritize making unforgettable memories. One of our first days in Athens, after a long day at museums with minimal sleep, a few of us had talked about going back to the Panathenaic Stadium to run around the track. I was exhausted and desperately wanted to take a nap but ended up getting changed and meeting everyone in the lobby. It is an experience I will never forget. The feeling of walking onto the track and imagining the stadium full of people who came there to watch you compete is an enchanting feeling. The second aspect of expectancy theory is instrumentality which represents the belief that performing successfully will result in an ideally positive outcome. This aspect is the one that organizations struggle with most; many employees don’t view their performance as a key contributor to their salary resulting in less motivated employees. Here in Greece, I have definitely struggled to stay motivated with my classwork. It is easy for me to get distracted with the beach so close to the school, as well as the abundance of coursework squeezed into such a short period of time. While I want to prioritize new experiences, I also want to do well in my classes as they do affect me beyond just my time abroad. I am working hard to perform successfully so I can hopefully obtain the outcome I desire. The last aspect of expectancy theory is valence, which represents the anticipated value of the outcomes associated with performance. Valence doesn’t necessarily have to be positive; it can be negative or even zero as well. There is not always a satisfying reward for a high performance. In addition to exploring new places, I really wanted to make an effort to try all the authentic Greek food while I’m here. I have never been a fan of Greek or Mediterranean food for as long as I can remember, minus a few things like gyros, and have given it my best effort to at least try everything once. Unfortunately, the outcome of my experience has been negatively valenced as I have not enjoyed the food I’ve tried as much as I wish I would have. Nevertheless, I am proud of myself for trying new things and am happy to have discovered the few things I tried that I really do enjoy.

The funny thing about expectations is that they are almost never what they seem. Being here in Greece I have been able to learn so much about the people and places here, but also myself. I have realized how much I appreciate having alone time as well as how much I miss doing my own laundry. Before this trip, I wanted to make amazing memories with new friends, and I can happily say I think I’ve accomplished my goal. So, I guess I won’t be changing my mindset after all. 😉

Stadium in Greece