Sitting in a cool, stone walled room in a restaurant in Florence with meat curing on the ceiling and waiters bring course after course of Italian delicacies that few of us have seen before, Dr. Smalley, the Grand Tour leader, told us two words that resonated with me the entire study abroad and my time in Europe after.
During my study abroad, these words popped into my head whenever I was questioning whether or not try to something that was out of my comfort zone. Whether it was a ghost tour of Edinburgh’s most haunted places on a dark, rainy night or something as simple as trying to have a conversation with someone in French, these moments of “trying it” only enriched my experience abroad. Studying abroad and trying new things gave me the ability to look at the world through a childlike curiosity once again. Everything was new. Every city and every country we visited was a whole new world to me just waiting to be explored and understood. There were new foods to be tasted, new words to learn, and new sights to see.
For most of us, studying abroad is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. The pieces of art, the gardens, the food, and the cultures that I experienced during the three or so weeks I was on this trip are what some people spend a lifetime trying to see. The most important tidbit of wisdom I hope to impart on those soon to be studying abroad is to embrace the spirit of just trying it. Your comfort zone should no longer exist while you are traveling. If I stayed in my comfort zone, I never would have taken a day trip to see priceless racehorses in Ireland. I never would have climbed an extinct volcano on a cold, windy day to see the city below. I never would have gotten to share great meals with fascinating Italian people that spoke no English. I never would have gotten the opportunity to spend the summer completing an internship in France after my study abroad ended. So take the excursion on your free days, talk to as many locals that are willing to talk to you, and try the food that you would normally turn your nose up at. You may never have the opportunity to try it again.