I had spent the good part of my first quarter within the confines of my apartment. Between the time I spent in my classes and the trek I made back and forth, each morning and evening, I stayed within the relatively restrictive boundaries of my bedroom or my desk. The unconscious effects of my own limitations prevented a healthy, efficient work ethic for both my analytical and creative work.

After transferring from another college, from another part of the state to UCLA this past fall, my initial reaction was to stay within my comfort zone. This meant that I spent a significant amount of time in my apartment. And if I convinced myself otherwise, within the bounds of Westwood Village. Fear of my surroundings and fear of change prevented me from learning more about where I would be residing for at least the next two years, if not more.

It took me my first quarter to finally venture beyond my usual route of class, apartment and the occasional grocery shopping.

I picked a Monday. For no other reason than that I really craved Diddy Riese ice-cream. I’d never gone before, and I finally admit to myself, I had no idea about what else there was in the village besides Trader Joe’s and Target. In reality, I just went down the elevator and walked towards Fox Theaters. But I felt an almost comical freedom at the thought of exploring the littlest part of Los Angeles on my own. I got my mint chocolate chip ice cream, even wandered through Whole Foods (that I had forgotten existed) and even mapped out the streets of Westwood Village.

Even understanding the basic layout of the little neighborhood I was a part of gave me the confidence to find coffee shops to work at, and restaurants to meet with friends at. My work ethic changed significantly. Instead of burrowing myself in work at the same desk, in the same living room, I walked downstairs to finish a paper or annotate a book. I even finished short stories I had placed on hold. I don’t believe I had a particularly unique experience with my exploration. But the one day I decided that I desperately needed ice-cream allowed me to feel more comfortable with where I was going to study and learn to live alone.

The clichéd statement wise people dole out, “step outside of your comfort zone,” contains some truth. Literally stepping outside of one’s comfort zone and expanding on one’s familiarity can change the way one works, the way one thinks and can even help one learn to love their new home.