IFSA Butler





Step Out of Your Comfort Zone. Study Abroad.

  1. Home
  2. /
  3. Student Stories
  4. /
  5. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone. Study Abroad.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone. Study Abroad.

Last week, and while I was on a video call with my sister, I came to a rather interesting realization. As my eyes wandered around the room behind me through the screen, I noticed one of my suitcases could be seen through the frame. On it, I had bags and clothes, utilizing it the same way as a table. And then it hit me. For the past six years, a suitcase has always been an integral part of every room I have lived in. From boarding school in Greece and college in the United States to studying abroad in Scotland, I have been subconsciously ‘incorporating’ suitcases in my room decor throughout all eight accommodations I have lived in thus far. With less than a week left in Edinburgh, I, once again, have to pack my belongings and empty yet another room.

This thought brought to mind the first episode of Outlander—a historical drama set in 18th century Scotland and a series I am utterly obsessed with. In its opening scene, the protagonist, Claire, stands in front of a shop window and admires a vase. She realizes she has never owned one and reflects on the fact that she had never lived in a place long enough to warrant owning such a simple thing. Of course, she attributed this to her nomadic childhood and the years she spent as a combat nurse during the Second World War instead of high school, college in the United States, and a semester in Europe, like me. Yet, I cannot help but relate to that nostalgic sentiment. For Claire, the vase symbolized stability, safety, and reassurance. It meant having a place that allows for such insignificant objects to be set down and left to collect dust. Although the excitement and maturity that come with discovering your future as you go are, in many ways, not only unparalleled but also a privilege, having a home you can call your own is something we all long for.

I am in love with the life I am currently leading and the opportunities that have been so generously handed to me up until this point. Studying abroad has been the highlight of my college experience and the fact that it has already reached its end feels bittersweet and, frankly, hard to believe. Yet, as with all previous endings that have been defining these past few years, what awaits me after my time in Scotland is the sense of comfort and familiarity one can only attain at home. However, as discussed in my previous entry, one’s home is not necessarily a building. It can be a place, a familiar smell, or a pivotal experience. For Claire, it was a person. So, what is my point? Embrace the feelings evoked by the ‘vase,’ but do not get too caught up in it. The vase and its lessons represent our comfort zone. They will always be there, waiting for us to settle and ultimately welcome the stability they promise. And when it is time, we gladly will.

Now, however, is the time to embrace what the suitcase represents. We have endured a global health crisis, some of us have had to wrestle with the loss of loved ones, we were long isolated and numb, resulting in our carrying stories and pasts that—although heavier—now render us utterly resilient. The vase is not for us just yet. Now is the time to explore, study abroad, meet new people, try challenging things, fail, succeed, laugh, and take things less seriously. Edinburgh allowed me to see this clearly for the first time since Iinitially used my suitcase as a room accessory six years ago. I have all the time in the world to get my ‘vase,’ but no one knows when—and if—life will ever lead me back to Edinburgh. I will never study abroad again—surely, I will travel, experiment, and explore as a tourist but what I experienced these past three months was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is now over. How could the vase provide me with something even remotely comparable to this? The stability the vase offers can be attained at any point you see fit. When you are in your twenties, however, you owe it to yourself to long for more. The vase will never light your soul on fire. Only you can.

Eleni Kytoudi is an Economics and Government Double Major at Franklin & Marshall College. She studied abroad with IFSA at the University of Edinburgh during the Fall of 2021.