New Go Overseas article published and a must-read for anyone who’s worried about going abroad alone:
Studying abroad is a huge step in your academic career and also one of the biggest steps you can take outside of your comfort zone. For many students who go abroad, it is the first time they’ve been so far from home, away from their safety net of friends, family, and general familiarity. Just the idea of being without these can be terrifying, but when you add on culture shock and a language barrier, you might be ready to turn back and stay where you feel safe. Or you might consider going abroad with a friend or two, maybe even as a group.
Studying abroad with friends certainly has its benefits. You’ll grow closer and strengthen your relationship as you encounter new challenges together. You’re guaranteed to have someone to reminisce with when you finally return home. If you’re shy and don’t make friends easily, you’ll have someone with you from the beginning.
But you know what else has its benefits? Studying abroad alone. If you’re having a tough time choosing between what your campus offers (and your friends are doing) or a super cool study abroad program you found, follow your gut. Before you decide to study abroad with your friends, here are five reasons you should consider doing your semester abroad solo.
1. Work with your own schedule.
It’s easy for friends to say, “Let’s study abroad together!” What if the other person doesn’t follow through? Don’t miss out on this opportunity because of someone else. Put your own priorities first: decide when studying abroad works with your schedule, and make it happen. Once you’re abroad, you’ll continue to have the freedom to choose what you want to do and when to do it. Want to have a lazy day and stay in bed? Go right ahead (although we don’t recommend doing this often). Feel like having a museums-only day? You got it! Traveling solo is very efficient because you don’t have to wait for someone else or make compromises. You won’t feel held back – or feel that you’re holding others back – if you want to do something else.
You can read the full article here.
I was excited that this topic was included in my assignments. I studied abroad alone – I literally didn’t know a single person in my program of 170 students – and while it was difficult in the beginning, I’m really glad that I did it. I’d never really traveled alone before, and I had quite a sheltered life in high school and college because I was always around people who could take care of me and help me when I needed it. I have experienced so much personal growth, especially independence and self-reliance, by doing this. When you don’t have anyone to turn to, it’s sink or swim – so you better start swimming. There are some crucial moments when you’re by yourself, panicking, and you have to tell yourself, “I can do this!” – and then you do it – and it’s very empowering. For me, one of those experiences was making my international flight solo and getting to my hotel in Madrid in one piece. I had a little breakdown in both airports because of some confusion and of course the language barrier, but if put in those situations again I know I could handle it now.
Yes, there are some downsides to going abroad without your friends. Adjusting to life in Spain was much harder without having anyone there who I could share my honest thoughts with, without being able to talk to someone who understood what I was going through. When I told my home friends about how things weren’t as great as I’d thought they would be, I’m sure they secretly thought I was being a Debbie Downer and just “needed to try harder” to be happy and positive (please don’t ever say that to anyone who’s studying abroad!). Adventures are better with company. Of course, these downsides only exist until you make new friends…
If you’re worried about studying abroad by yourself, don’t be. You won’t be completely alone if you go without friends. You’ll have your program’s on-site staff, your host family, your roommates, classmates, whoever. If you’re very outgoing, you won’t have a problem at all making new connections. If you’re shy like me, you’ll be forced to come out of your shell and meet people, however painful that initial small talk may be.
Being on my own was cause for a lot of self-reflection, learning about who I was without my friends, and being able to pursue my own interests without worrying about needing someone there to hold my hand or make me feel less embarrassed about being alone. It’s entirely worth it.