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Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone while Studying Abroad

May 03, 2024
by Ava Shelton
View of mountains from plane window

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone to Make the Most of Your Studies Abroad in Florence, Italy  

My time studying abroad in Florence, Italy was nothing short of amazing, fascinating, and eye-opening. I learned a lot about adapting to my host culture, became more independent, and stepped out of my comfort zone, as that’s part of my identity, so I continued doing it. During your time abroad, I strongly encourage you to do the same. After all, you took the leap of faith by leaving the country you attend college in to study in a country you may not have been to before or where you don't know what it’d be like to spend more time in. 

A corner of a room with a window and a table

The view inside an Irish pub with a window looking out at the Duomo. 

Make New Friends Abroad 

Part of stepping out of my comfort zone meant selecting the random roommate option and discovering our shared interests on the roommate portal. I spent a lot of weekends exploring the museums, shops, and restaurants that Florence has to offer, as well as traveling to see more of Europe with them. Although I know it’s comforting being near hometown or college friends and having that sense of comfort, I highly encourage you to meet new friends through classes, on CEA CAPA excursions, and maybe take a trip with them. I like to think of this time in your life as a new adventure where you can form new friendships and broaden your horizon. 

A view of the mountains from an airplane window

Flying over the French Alps to get from Florence, Italy to Paris, France. 

Try New Food 

Trying new food in and outside of my host country was also something that pushed me out of my comfort zone while studying abroad. As much as I love every cuisine, there were times that I ordered dishes that were native to Italy that I wasn’t fond of, but trying new food is something I enjoy. I was super pleased with the food I tried in Italy and trying new ingredients in the pasta dishes. I think tasting new flavors of things you’re used to eating at home is an experience worth having while you study abroad. I typically don’t have calzone and never had salami on my pizza before, but because of how much I loved it at Gustapizza in Florence, I tend to go there when I crave pizza. 

A group of food and drinks on a ledge

Enjoying Gustapizza while watching the sunset on the Arno River. 

Feel at Home 

I consider that part of my identity is having ancestors from Sicily. Part of the reason I chose to study abroad in Florence was because my ancestors are from Italy. In some sense it felt more home-y knowing I had family who are from my host country. The cold cuts that are sold in the market reminded me of my grandpa’s career as a butcher and love for cured meats and the fresh farmers market oranges remind me of the orange tree in my backyard. The city’s Sant’Ambrogio market was somewhere I enjoyed shopping at least once a week to grab fresh produce and support the local economy. Doing things that you enjoy doing at home and can do in your host country is a large part of your identity and is something to appreciate. In any country that you travel to there are certainly ways that the place will eventually feel like a home. 

People at a market with fruits and vegetables

Produce in front the Sant’Ambrogio Market.  

Experience Study Abroad Excursions 

With a limited time to study abroad, it’s important to do things you like but also try new things. I learned to not hold back on the opportunities that I was provided with through CEA CAPA and in my host city. A few examples of this are traveling with the program to Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, and Lucca. While your host country will offer other cities, I highly recommend going to them. The food and culture are different, and it’s included in your program. In Florence specifically, my program also provided a pasta making class. It was so fun to literally get a hands-on experience of making pasta and eating it after.  

It’s important to take advantage of the opportunities given to you while being abroad because they’re unlike anything in the U.S. There are plenty of other free opportunities like going to bookshops, walking around your city, and enjoying a sunset, but try doing the things you enjoy because this is your home for a while. 

A large screen in a theater

Sitting in the theater at the Cinema Odeon in Florence.  

Studying abroad in Italy was an incredible experience that led to personal growth and cultural exploration. Yet, doing some of the things I was familiar with made me appreciate my experience that much more. I recognized that it’s important to step out of your comfort zone by embracing the unfamiliar through meeting new people, perhaps forming lasting friendships, and indulging in diverse cuisines. Exploring the vibrant streets and traveling across Europe broadened my perspective while connecting me to my heritage. 

Ava Shelton is the Content Creator - Blogger in Florence, Italy, and is currently studying at University of Utah.
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