Key Takeaways 🔑:
- You’ll have to be more independent, which means making decisions on your own and figuring out how to get from point A to point B without relying on anyone else.
- You'll learn how it feels to explore in your own company—and this can be both isolating and enlightening as well as challenging at times. But that's what makes studying abroad so valuable!
- You’ll be forced out of your comfort zone by living in an unfamiliar environment with people who speak a different language, but you’ll also make international friendships fast!
- You'll learn how to manage money like a grown-up! The good news is this experience will help prepare you for adulthood and future jobs where budgeting is essential.
Studying abroad is a massive step in your academic career and one of the biggest steps you can take outside your comfort zone. For many students who go abroad, it is the first time they’ve been so far from home, away from their safety net of friends, family, and general familiarity.
Just the idea of being abroad on your own can be terrifying, but when you add on culture shock and a language barrier, you might be ready to turn back and stay where you feel safe. Or you might consider going abroad with a friend or two, maybe even as a group.
Before you decide to study abroad with your friends, take a look at these reasons to consider doing your semester abroad solo.
1. More freedom means you’ll gain independence
Traveling provides freedom and independence, which means you’ll be responsible for your well-being more than before, and studying abroad alone pushes you to rise to the challenge. Nothing is more empowering than seeing how far you’ve come on a journey and saying proudly, “I did it all by myself!”
Whether it’s traveling alone for the first time, navigating public transportation, getting over your fears of speaking a foreign language, overcoming homesickness, or cooking your first meal ever, you’ll learn that you are capable of dealing with difficult situations entirely on your own – this is something that you’ll carry with you beyond the study abroad experience.
When you’re by yourself for a few months, you will have no choice but to learn how much independence and self-reliance you can handle—and if you’re willing to put in the effort, it will pay off in huge ways.
2. You can be on your schedule
The most obvious advantage of studying abroad by yourself is that you can do exactly what you want in the way that suits you best. For example, if your friend wants to wake up at 7 a.m. and study, but another friend likes to sleep until noon, then it's very likely that one or both of those individuals will be unhappy with the arrangement. But when you're on your own schedule, there are no arguments about how much time anyone else needs for their studies!
It’s easy for friends to say, “Let’s study abroad together!” What if the other person doesn’t follow through? Don’t miss out on this opportunity because of someone else. Put your priorities first: decide when studying abroad works with your schedule, and make it happen.
Once you’re abroad, you’ll have the freedom to choose what you want to do and when to do it. Want to have a lazy day and stay in bed? Go right ahead. Feel like having a museums-only day? You got it! Traveling solo is efficient because you don’t have to wait for someone else or make compromises. If you want to do something else, you won’t feel held back – or think you’re holding others back.
3. You’ll learn to appreciate your own company
Being abroad is all about self-discovery; when you go alone, you can find out who you are without your friends.
You will also learn to appreciate your own company. You will be forced to be independent and responsible for yourself, which is something you’ll do more often when you're on your own.
You'll be more creative and resourceful in finding ways of adapting to new environments and situations, which will make you a stronger person overall. You'll also become more confident in yourself because of these experiences.
Additionally, being alone will help you develop patience and resilience in dealing with difficult situations that come up while studying abroad without friends or family members around.
Push yourself to grow in different directions and try new activities you’ve always been interested in. Gain the confidence to do even more things by yourself.
Discover how to be comfortable in your solitude and how to be alone without feeling lonely.
4. You’ll gain stronger problem-solving skills
When you’re traveling abroad, obstacles are bound to arise – no matter how perfectly you plan things out or prepare. Maybe you’ll get unexpectedly rained on during an excursion and realize you have to create a new agenda for the day. Or you get sick with a cold and have to learn how to navigate a foreign pharmacy to purchase cough medicine on your own.
As you travel independently and encounter new challenges and situations alone, you’ll learn more about what your strengths and weaknesses are and find ways to solve each of these problems on your own! Creative problem-solving is a skill you’ll carry with you the rest of your life – now is the perfect time to start.
5. You’ll make new friends faster
Making new friends is one of the best things about studying abroad! You’ll meet people from not only all over the U.S. but from around the world. When you study abroad with someone you know, it’s easy to stay in your comfort zone because you already have a partner in crime, a travel companion, and someone to share life abroad with.
Making new friends is much easier when you’re in a foreign country and surrounded by people who are just as lonely, bewildered, and excited as you are. You might feel like an alien at first—a fish out of water—but don’t worry too much about it. After all, the purpose of studying abroad is to make yourself more comfortable in this new environment.
Don’t forget to break out of the “study abroad bubble” and meet local people! Especially for students wanting to practice or perfect a foreign language, not having the crutch of a friend from back home may give you the extra nudge to make friends with native speakers of other languages.
Moreover, you'll come back home with many new places to visit. With new friends from around the USA (and the world), you're bound to plan your next joint travel venture before the first one even finishes. An expanded social network, especially internationally, will yield benefits for years. You may even score a few couches to crash on too!
6. You’ll be in full control of your study abroad experience
It’s common to feel pressured to choose certain classes, housing, excursions, student clubs, and events to go with your friends. Your semester or year abroad is NOT the time to settle for doing what someone else wants. Don’t leave with any regrets because you didn’t get to explore your interests, live in your preferred accommodation, or do something you were excited about.
When you study abroad alone, you get to call all the shots, and you’ll be able to create the experience you want without feeling guilty. Don't let FOMO reign - even if your group of girlfriends is planning on going to Madrid for a semester (and you secretly want to study in Granada), don't settle for the capital city. Start planning weekend trips instead!
7. It will be a more immersive experience
One of the most valuable aspects of studying abroad is the opportunity to experience a new culture, which is why many students choose to study abroad without their friends.
When you travel with your friends, it can be hard to take in everything. You’ll be more inclined to hang out with them and have fun instead of exploring on your own and immersing yourself fully in a new culture.
If you travel solo, however, you will be able to take advantage of all that your host country has to offer by spending time with locals and learning about their unique cultures and traditions.
8. Traveling alone is a skill you'll hone for life
If you want to learn how to do something for life, then traveling alone is definitely a good way to start. Being alone in a new place means that you'll have no choice but to be more self-sufficient and independent than ever before. You'll have to figure out how things work in your new location (like transportation, food, and money), which means learning how to manage your budget and time better as well.
Traveling alone also helps sharpen your communication skills because it makes them more essential than ever before: if there's an issue with another traveler or employee of the hostel/hotel/airline/bus station where you're staying or traveling, then it's up to YOU—not someone else—to fix it. In fact, this whole process will help teach you how important communication is!
So what does all this mean? It means that traveling without friends is actually a great opportunity for personal growth. You'll learn about yourself as well as develop some key life skills along the way—skills that will serve you well in any situation down the line!
Discover who you are as an individual, and don't define yourself by anyone else
Studying abroad is already taking a huge step outside the walls of your comfort zone – but when you go alone, you’ll get to blow those walls wide open. So if you’re scared of being by yourself, don’t be! Although you may start the journey alone, you won’t be the only one in your study abroad program.
Many other students will be in the same boat as you – these will become your new friends and fellow travelers. You’ll also have the full support of your on-site staff. Don’t worry about your friends back at home; they’ll still be there when you return, eager to hear stories. Set sail solo – you won’t regret it!