First thing’s first – you don’t have to come abroad with your best friends to have the best study abroad experience. Plenty of students have done this totally by themselves, and they not only have made new lifelong friendships, they’ve also learned something about themselves along the way. Starting the study abroad process solo means making bold moves and choosing everything on your own time in your own way. There’s no greater freedom than waking up and deciding exactly what you want to do that day and only needing to please yourself. Miss or Mister I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T.
But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some nerves involved-we get it. Just remember, you’ve done this before your freshman year of university. You got to know your roommate, your hallmates, and eventually your classmates until you found someone who just got you. You’re just gonna do it all over again. . . and remind yourself – it’s trial and error. Don’t feel like you have to stick with the same people your entire semester. Even if you come abroad with friends or know a few people from your home university–branch out and try to make new friendships. You all have something major in common already: your adventurous spirit and desire to see the world. This whole semester abroad is about trying new things and learning more about the world and yourself. Surround yourself with others on the same journey and you’re bound to come back home with a network of friends around the world.
1. First Week Frenzy
Try to be involved in your program’s orientation week. Everyone is new and looking to make connections so don’t miss that late-night mixer even if you’re jet-lagged, haven’t unpacked, and feel slightly overwhelmed. Trust me–everyone feels the same way. And there’s no better bonding moment than feeling simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated, starting your new semester abroad. During the beginning of the semester, take advantage of all the fun, welcome activities. If you’re studying in Italy, bus2Alps offers Taste of Florence and Taste of Rome to let students try out the best restaurants in town for free. Wander the cobblestone streets and sample wine, pizza, and gelato all while meeting new students in your program & other programs in your city. Could life get any better?
The first thing I did when I got abroad was explored the city with my roommate. She had more friends in our program than I did, so I immediately had a crew with which to wander around Florence. We found bars that prior students recommended and our favorite coffee shops and restaurants to eat at when we weren’t getting spoiled by our host family’s cooking. Eventually, we figured out that we had very different travel personalities–and I met other people who were more my style–so we didn’t book any trips or weekend adventures together, but she was a great friend and roommate. In the end, I was thankful to have had some people to join me in getting to know my new home and a great gal to come home to–someone who would always ask how my weekend or night was and was eager to hear.
3. Other Travel Buddies
Okay, so your roommates don’t share your travel personality – time to expand the search. Your program is full of students. I immediately hit it off with a few people in my classes and ended up planning some trips with them. Unfortunately, the trip wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I was on a budget, and one of the other students was not so the “split the bill” conversation was a bit awkward. We also had different ideas about must see places and activities on the trip. I decided to branch off on my own for a couple of stops so I could make sure to fit in what I wanted. No hard feelings – we still had a great time, I just made sure to voice my concerns and it honestly helped me become more independent and straightforward.
You’ll learn pretty quickly that there are different kinds of travelers. You’ve got the budget traveler, who won’t splurge for an expensive bottle of wine at dinner, but is always down for a free walking tour and hostel discounts. You’ve got the party crew who travels in a pack and is looking for the world’s best pub crawl in every city they go to. You’ve got the organized planner that wants to see everything and fit in the most stops on a tight itinerary. And there’s every kind of traveler in between. Ultimately, you’re looking for kindred spirits – people who are on the same travel vibe as you are.
4. Book trips on your own
If you’ve done the above and still haven’t found your travel soulmate, book whatever trip YOU want and don’t worry about who from your program is coming along. The best way to travel by yourself is actually not traveling by yourself at all – book travel with a tour group. I went on my Easter Break weekend pretty much on my own. I knew I wanted to go to Greece so I signed up for the trip and was placed in a room with two girls from my program. On the trip, I met a group of girls from another program who ended up being my crew for the rest of the semester. I was SO grateful for that trip, that experience, and for the people that I met. After that, I booked the rest of my semester however I wanted to and figured out pretty quickly that I didn’t need to worry about the who that was coming along.