Taking risks and expanding your comfort zone at Pioneer

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Comfort zone

For most Pioneer scholars, the Pioneer research paper represents not only their first time doing authentic research but one of the most in-depth academic projects they have ever undertaken. Research at Pioneer will likely drive you out of your comfort zone––but that is a good thing. Professor Synder, a Pioneer faculty mentor in chemistry, explains, “I always start off by telling my students–especially when they’re learning something new–that they have to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. That kind of seems like a hard thing to wrap your head around. How can I be comfortable being uncomfortable? Those are two things that shouldn’t necessarily go together. But they’re critical.” Pioneer Academics is founded on the belief that high school students can rise to the challenge of research. In order to do so, Pioneer scholars must take risks and expand their comfort zones. 

Because of the depth and specificity of Pioneer’s concentrations as well as the rigor of the research process, it is inevitable that Pioneer scholars will deal with unfamiliar subjects. Hung (engineering, 2019), a Pioneer scholar from the US, echoes Professor Snyder’s advice. He says that when learning something new, the key is “understanding that it’s okay not to be comfortable with some of this stuff so that you can put your foot forward and keep moving.” Starting out with realistic expectations can reduce stress and anxiety down the road. “Even in life in general there’s going to be stuff that you’re not familiar with and that you’re not comfortable with, but I think ignoring it and not facing it won’t help you grow as a person and move forward,” Hung adds. 

Nourane (political science, 2019), a Pioneer scholar from Tunisia, says that Pioneer allowed her to dive into a “sea of freedom” where she could challenge herself and take risks. One such risk was her paper topic, which examined the communist revolutions in Russia, China, and Cambodia. “I think the big risk in my paper was choosing to talk about three different contexts––China, Russia, and Cambodia––in the same paper. Both [my faculty mentor] and I feared that it might dilute the problem or oversimplify it. And I am personally someone who strongly dislikes oversimplification when trying to offer an explanation––I’d rather get no explanation and leave it for future research rather than offer an oversimplified or diluted explanation. So, that was a huge risk, and I took time to deliberate whether I needed this many contexts,” Nourane explains. In the end, her paper benefited from its broad scope. 

Gayatri (history, 2019), a Pioneer scholar from India, also challenged herself with her paper topic. While she had always been interested in Indian history, she used Pioneer as a chance to research an area of the world with which she had no experience. “At Pioneer I actually ended up writing a paper on the history of the Yugoslav wars, which is in the Balkans and has nothing to do with India at all. Through conversations with [my faculty mentor] I realized that I already know a lot about Indian history,” Gayatri says. “I felt like stepping out of my comfort zone writing about the history of an area I had never heard about.”

Pioneer’s academic system is designed to challenge students while providing the support they need to accomplish great things. Pioneer believes that high school students can do authentic research and provides them with the resources and structure to do so. As former Pioneer scholars can attest, it is normal to feel occasionally overwhelmed and uncomfortable when learning something unfamiliar or doing research for the first time. In order to learn new things and grow as a scholar, you have to step outside of your comfort zone. Because of its rigorous academic standards and structured support system, Pioneer Academics provides the ideal platform for students to take on this challenge.

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