My comfort zone when I'm around people is to be as invisible as possible. I learned to deal with being out of my comfort zone like a lot of things in life -- practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice.
Over the years, I've learned most people are in their own world worried about their own agenda, troubles, issues, etc. Yes, a small number are interested in other people -- to either learn, engage... and yes, some to gossip and make fun. But the larger the setting (such as a college), at least for me, the number of the "make fun and gossip" people seem to be far and in between. Instead, I continue to see others running around, trying to get to class, being in their own clicks, etc.
For the few that criticize, smile and move on. Recently in my sociology class when we were partnering up to do field research, I was in an awkward situation where I had tentatively agreed to work with someone and another asked me to work with them with the person with whom I was supposed to work with right behind me. So I did what I believed to be logical, and asked the teacher "could we do a three way?"
Immediately a number of the fellow students around me started laughing their heads off (I'm a guy, the other two are women). I just continued acting as if I didn't hear their laughter, didn't even blush, and when the teacher stated that would be ok... then continued to coordinate with my field partners as if the other students never laughed. Guess what? Next class, it was all forgotten by the other class mates.
As I share this, I'm not stating a shy person can get to the point of being completely unshy (is that a word?), but you can get to the point where you are extremely ok with being shy and still engage with the people around you.