Studying abroad is a life-changing experience in many ways, and something that I've noticed while studying abroad is how important being alone has been for my personal growth. There are many opportunities to be alone and travel alone, and although that might not sound appealing at first, it becomes extremely rewarding.
As an introvert, I understand needing some time to recharge. Still, I enjoy being surrounded by close friends and family and having people to talk to, especially to travel and go on excursions with.
After those trips and excursions, one of the best feelings is throwing yourself onto your own bed in your own room.
When you're in an unfamiliar place traveling every week and you come home on Sunday night, you're not going back to your regular room. You're going to the temporary room that you're borrowing—the only thing that makes it yours, is you.
Because of this, you're almost forced into learning how to make being alone a normal part of life, which, up until now, wasn't so necessary. Through my own experiences, I have come up with a list of five important things studying abroad has taught me about being alone:
1. To find comfort in being alone.
Now, being alone has a new sense of comfort for me. I am the only constant thing while travelling, so I need to stay in touch with myself in order not to feel lost and overwhelmed. I have learned to look at myself the same way I look at anything I would call home and appreciate having myself around when everything else is so unfamiliar.
2. Wandering has never been so easy.
Whenever I go into a city to run an errand, I make sure to give myself extra time for wandering. Getting lost can become quite fun—that's where hidden gems like old bookstores and amazing street art are found. Wandering on my own in new places gives me a sense of independence and makes experiencing that place more interesting, never knowing what's around the corner or what kind of spontaneous adventures are ahead.
3. Enjoying being alone doesn't make me lonely.
Loneliness and solitude tend to go together in our minds, but they're actually completely different things. I have tons of friends I can go see and family I can video chat with—I'm not deprived of communication if I want it. Being happily alone means that I'm choosing to be alone, while loneliness usually comes with wanting to be with others and not having the ability to be. I've learned to become a friend to myself, which makes it even harder for me to ever feel that sense of loneliness.
4. It allows me to experience a place differently.
Sometimes that means being more in touch with the locals (including the dogs) and making new friends with strangers, other times that means fully taking in all the sights and sounds. It's unavoidable to become keenly observant in a new place, especially if there's no one with you. It also partially makes that place feel like yours because you've experienced it entirely on your own and now have your own memories to share with that place.
5. I will get to know myself better than I ever thought possible.
Spending more time with myself has forced me to make decisions on my own, rather than do what everyone else wants to do. It has allowed me to understand my own thoughts and opinions without being influenced by others. I have become someone that I don't mind hanging out with and I continue to learn new things about myself that I wouldn't have known otherwise.
You're going to be with yourself for your entire life, so it's worth it to take some time to be alone and experience places, new and old, with the person you know best.