At 6 a.m. on New Year’s day, I was face to face with the stale bagel in front of me at the airport. I could barely stomach the thought of eating it because of the nervous pit in my stomach. I (dramatically) ate it as I realized this could be the last time I had my favorite food for a while.
I was on my way to Europe to study abroad.
The worries I had ignored for months suddenly flooded in: “What if everyone already knows people? What if people are only going in friend groups? What if …”
Going abroad through Tulane is often accompanied by a few friends and familiar faces due to attending similar universities. I decided at the last minute to go abroad this spring; unfortunately, the opposite semester that my friends went. For weeks I went over in my head the possible disastrous or life-changing routes it could go.
I have had basically the same friends since freshman year (most of whom I ironically made abroad as a spring scholar), so it had been a while since having to be solo. Even though I spend some days alone and value spending time alone, four months of this sounded overwhelming.
I had this preconceived notion that everyone would be in groups, not want to meet others, and overall have an easier time by going with friends. Luckily, I was completely wrong. Upon walking off the plane, everyone was exhausted, disgusting, and embarrassingly dragging their suitcases to orientation. Everyone had to deal with adjusting to a new place, experiencing the first week of classes, getting lost, and getting called out by locals for ordering wrong. Vulnerability is at an all-time high. Most importantly, though, everyone wanted to make friends, make plans, and make the most of their new home away from home.
As much as I worried that I should have gone in the fall so I could go with Tulane friends, I have not once regretted going alone. Here is why:
1- You will surprise yourself
A tremendous amount of self-doubt accompanies the nerves of going alone. Whether it’s fearing being so far away from home, the language barrier, making friends, etc., you will adjust quicker than you think, and it’s a very gratifying feeling.
2- You become self-reliant
Being able to rely on yourself rather than others is one of the most important parts of growing in college, and going abroad alone certainly pushes you to do so. It is also extremely refreshing to plan your own trips and make every decision yourself rather than attend to other people’s agendas. When else do you get to do that?
3- You will meet so many more people
Going alone abroad is great because it opens doors you would never know were shut. For a classic example, if I had gone with a big group of friends, I wouldn’t have felt the need to branch out. Because I went alone to Italy, I was forced to leave my comfort zone and meet new people. That was the best part for me, as I made close friends from other schools, places, and backgrounds. It was fun and interesting to hear about their experiences. This also puts you in a position to spend time with people with the same interests as you (something that ended up being very important for me while abroad), which might not be the case with your best friends at Tulane.
4- It’s good to test yourself
I’m a creature of habit, so I certainly can fall into a very comfortable routine when given the opportunity. I spend my days with similar people, activities, and even food, normally. This made going abroad alone very impactful because I was completely uprooted from my bubble. Switching up your routine is always a good thing every now and then– it keeps things interesting!
For those conflicted about taking the leap of going alone, I recommend submitting your application before you can even change your mind! While the anticipation or doubts might be exhausting, the end results are 100% worth it… and you are sure to have a life-changing and unique experience different than anyone you know.
Featured image via consciousadventurist.com.