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Gelato & Avventura: Breaking Barriers

We can all agree that studying abroad is a huge leap out of the bubble that defines our comfort zone. It involves new countries, new people, new everything — scary, right? Whether this can be seen as a blessing or a curse, but I can adapt to anything pretty quickly. I already see the Roman dorms as my home, and I love to indulge in the American atmosphere after a long day of trying to defend myself with my elementary-level Italian. I already walk the nearby streets with confidence and have found my favorite breakfast bar, as well as a certain lunch spot that I frequent at least three times a week.

This means only one thing — simply studying abroad is not enough for me; I have to constantly strive to break the barriers of my comfort zone. In turn, here are two of my favorite break-the-zone adventures that I have had in the past two weeks:

1. I took my first (mini) solo trip and mastered the Roman Metro system (it is only two lines, but still). A friend from UF introduced me to his Italian friend, Miri. Miri and I agreed to meet at Termini, the central train station in Rome. This meant riding the Metro and figuring out how to get to Termini all by myself — I had traveled on the metro before but had never done it solo. It was raining, a bit cramped, and I had to ask for directions at least once, but I finally made it to our meeting spot. I even used my nifty Italian cellphone to call her. We met up, and the rest is history. She is an amazing friend, and we had such a great day! She showed me around the EUR district of Rome, we went shopping, and we had a delicious lunch. She even showed me her home and her school! I was so happy she was so open with me. She later directed me how to get back home on the metro, and I felt completely Italian. Si!

2. I taught English to a classroom full of perfect little Italians. The school offers a volunteer opportunity where you can go to a nearby elementary school and teach English for an hour. Although I was nervous at first, I decided to sign up for it. First, I had the challenge of finding the school by myself and then finding the teacher who I was supposed to help. When I finally reached my classroom, I was taken aback to find out that the actual teacher wasn’t there, and, instead, it was a substitute teacher — a substitute who barely spoke English. Uh-oh. Not only was it hard to communicate, but she had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, so it was all up to me to come up with a lesson plan on the spot. As I stood in front of the class with all of the little eager faces staring back at me, I felt myself getting more and more nervous, but I just grabbed the chalk and went for it. With the help of my Italian lessons and tons of hand gestures, we were able to have a successful lesson, and we even played Simon Says afterwards. Spending the afternoon with them was absolutely priceless. Italian bambini are the most perfect creatures in this world, and I was so happy they liked me. They kept getting closer and speaking rapid Italian and hugging me, and all I could do was smile like an idiot. I even got lost on the way back, but I could not stop smiling.

My adventures aren’t going to stop any time soon, so check back next time for more stories — hopefully I’ll master the Metro by then!

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