I am now at the end of week one of my first week abroad. Thus far, I've come to the best conclusion that anyone in my position concerned about experiencing homesickness or not having friends can possibly have:
"So what? Who cares? I'm in [insert international city name here]!"
If you notice here, I am beaming with happiness over sitting by the Seine River in Paris, France.
At this moment do you think I give a crap that I came on this three-month travel stint not knowing anyone? No.
At this moment do you think I am particularly concerned with the fact that by going abroad alone I now face a second "first semester, freshman year" in which I am forced to re- integrate myself in new social circles and feel out total strangers for companionship? No.
At this moment do you think I am worrying about the fact that as a senior, I face a unique challenge of having gotten the "rowdiness" out of my system to the point that I can't connect to the cliché social behaviors of American students studying abroad? No.
Do I worry about these things? Sure, of course, I do. As I've mentioned earlier, going abroad is specifically designed for young adults, through academic pursuit and mass exposure to global cultures, to grow in ways that are not necessarily available to them in the States. In ways both good and bad, students have different ways that they choose to "broaden horizons" abroad, if you catch my drift.
To me, that's all cool, whatever you choose to do. I know what I choose to do to receive the cultural enrichment I desire. The way that I choose to go about it might make me a bit of a black sheep right now at week one, but that's okay. When I feel a little out of touch with the younger kids (and when I say "younger," underclassmen you will so understand when you're older--enjoy it while you can), or like I'm taking a different route to my cultural emersion than my peers, I simply look around at my surroundings.
One day the Eiffel Tower, the next the Mona Lisa. Today Paris, tomorrow Rome. Seeing all the touristy and historical European big shots in the blink of an eye makes up for any uncomfortable social deviances one might see in peer-to-peer interactions. A lot of my experience abroad has been putting myself out there to achieve what I want. Additionally, much more can happen in just a week. Why just last week I was eating a waffle in Manhattan. Things happen... It doesn't mean that for people who come abroad "alone," you're going to feel "alone" the whole time. For some we find our niche group, and others of us will find a sort of quiet liberation in our solitude.
Going abroad is a time for personal growth, and that growth starts in small ways like finding the right flight gate at an airport you've never been to where you don't speak the language, or being able to order a meal by yourself in Spanish for the first time. "Growth" doesn't have to mean that you come abroad and by day two you're a whole new person. It will take as much time and take on whatever form you need it to. Rome wasn't built in a day, but I'll be there soon!
Stay tuned for next week's revelation!