When I studied abroad, I didn’t know anyone else going in my program, which was a big step in and of itself. No one from my school was going abroad with me. I was excited that I’d get to meet new people but I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to make friends. Boy, was I wrong.
I made my first friend as soon as I got to the airport. She was standing in front of me in line with her parents. We kind of looked at each other for a while. She had two really big bags so I thought maybe she’s studying abroad, as well. I asked if she was; she said yes and asked if I was going to Florence. I said I was, and we found out we’re both going through AIFS. We were instant friends and would come to be travel buddies on a few trips.
Making friends abroad was no issue, and everyone was eager to travel. I planned a couple of weekend trips, but I was also eager to go somewhere and explore by myself. I went to Switzerland with a travel agency that works with study abroad students. This was fun because I was still with other American students that I got to know, but no one that I already knew. One girl and I realized, sitting together on the bus, that we were actually from neighboring towns in our home state. We thought it was funny to run into someone from small town Maine in Switzerland, of all places.
I planned a solo trip to Dublin, Ireland all by myself. I was a little nervous to travel alone but excited to go somewhere new. I booked my flights and hotel. Logistically, it was easier to travel alone without trying to buy flights together or split a hotel room. Plus for a whole weekend I would be able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
Traveling on your own forces you out of your comfort zone. This is when you can learn the most about yourself. You have the chance to meet someone you may have never talked to before. Maybe you sit next to someone on public transportation and learn their incredible life story. Maybe you’ll stumble across something if you had been following the crowd. Traveling alone allows you to take the path less traveled. Not only will you gain independence, you will gain confidence. You will discover things about yourself you never would have.