‘A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there’ – the most cliché quote of all time.
And yet, last summer, after 20 years of living in my small home town in the north of Italy, I realized that I had sort of outgrown it. I felt that it was time for me to be brave and venture into the big, scary world to grow as a person and broaden my horizon.
On the 1st July, after almost a year of planning, saving and looking for an internship I was ready. Terrified but very excited I packed my suitcase, said goodbye to my family at the train station with tears streaming down my face and was finally off. My destination: London. I love London.
The first time I went I was 16 years old and on a language stay and while I did not necessarily enjoy my language classes I fell head over heels for the city. The mix of old Victorian buildings and modern architecture, the international vibe and probably my obsession with Harry Potter left me utterly smitten with the English capital.
From that summer on I pictured myself living there: belonging to the cool people with their Starbucks coffees, knowing exactly which train to take, always dressed to the nines and not at all fazed by the high-speed cyclists threatening to run you over at any minute. And now it seemed as if the moment had finally come. Two months of interning in London to make those dreams come true.
Reality hit hard. When I arrived at London Victoria Station I was at a complete loss. Sitting squashed between other travelers, clutching my bags, munching away on an awful tasting sandwich I felt like I had made a terrible mistake. ‘What am I doing here? That is not where I belong!’ were the only things running through my head.
Now, a month later, I am very happy to say that I have kind of settled in. I now know how to use the self-service checkouts at grocery stores (something I had never done before), would never dare to even think about standing on the left side of an escalator, do not need an hour anymore to search for the right coins in my wallet and Citymapper and Google Maps have become my best friends.
I will not pretend that it has been easy. But even after being out of a job due to unforeseen circumstances, a flooded flat, exploding plug sockets and getting lost and rained on several times on my way home I have never been happier to be where I am.
I have learned so much about myself and the importance of change. About optimism in the face of everyday-challenges and that sometimes we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable for a bit to find our way. I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting amazing people from all over the world that have shown me perspectives that I had never considered before. I get that there will always be good and bad days and that the latter are no reason at all to give up as odds are that they will be followed by great times.
I can’t wait to see what the coming month has in store for me. And guess what? The other day I left the house wearing my smartest dress, knew exactly which train I wanted to take and dodged several cyclists all while sipping my latte.
It seems as though sometimes dreams do come true.
Stefania Laierno: ‘Student, small town girl and book-enthusiast trying to set foot in London.’