Everyone has a different comfort zone. All shapes, sizes, depths, widths and boundaries are available. Some might argue you’re born with it (“oh your mother was the same way”) and some might say you’re responding to your environment (“after all it is a private school”). Whatever the reason – you’ve got one, and so do I.
Studying abroad can help you chip away at your comfort zone or blow the doors right off.
Often times, we have students who admit things about themselves in a rush of words; an almost-embarrassed, half-anxious tumble of emotions. They’ve never flown before, they’re not sure how to get a passport, they’re ready to go but they’re scared. Scared makes sense! Studying abroad is a BIG decision, whether it’s for one week or one semester.
One of the things I’ve heard students say is: “I don’t want to go by myself.”
Know something? I went by myself. “By myself” in my case meant that I was the only student from my institution. But when I left on January 1, I was flying to the UK for an orientation with 83 other Americans. We all chose to study with the same provider, in the same city. EIGHTY FOUR OF US. On our first big group outing in Granada, we took a picture in the Alhambra – smiling so hard in our Northface fleece jackets and Levi jeans (so posh in Spain).
I spent the next six months of my life with these people. I got to know some very well, and some just by name. It’s been seven years since my group first saw Spain. Today, they are all across the globe, doing amazing things and those six months are something we will always have in common.
The reality of it is – we were never alone. We were surrounded by a group of fellow Americans, in a Spanish university, in a European country. I lived with a host family, who I just saw this past year for the first time since 2004. We were supported by an on-site staff from the organization who did everything from respond to emergencies to accompany students to the doctor’s office. I took classes taught in Spanish with students from all over the world. I traveled with people I had just met, and got to know them along the way. Even on my worst days (because you’ll have those) – I never felt like I was by myself.
Some programs use it as a marketing tool, like on the campus tours when your guide giggles and says “you’ll meet your bridesmaids here.” You might. You may also discover that “being alone” really isn’t so lonely.
Check out some additional resources on solo travel:
- Janice Waugh of SoloTraveler
- Smarter Traveler’s feature on Tips for Women Traveling Solo
- Ellen Perlman’s BoldyGoSolo
You will find that traveling solo is a huge phenomenon, and growing rapidly. People are leaving their cubicles to live it up (like Jeanne from NomadicChick), teaching in foreign countries (like Patricka in Korea), and seeing the world as they see fit (like Amanda from DangerousBusiness). They may be traveling by themselves, but they rarely find themselves alone.