1.) You are NOT actually alone
At first, I felt as if I was the only person who came abroad with no friends. However, once I got to the airport and met up with the ISA group I met other students who were in the same boat as me! There are plenty of students from all across the country who are also going to join the program alone and share the same fears as you. Try not to overthink the what if’s. Make sure you engage with others once you arrive until you find someone that you connect with. You will find someone that shares the same interests as you. Even those that do come with friends are willing to venture off and create new friendships.
2.) You develop independence
Living abroad will push you completely outside of your comfort zone even if you try to find as many comforts as possible that remind you of home. This is a perfect environment to practice independence because you are forced to adapt while also trying to build new connections. At first, you may feel lonely because it might take some time to get settled and begin getting to know those around you. Remember to be patient but also willing you put yourself out there. I met one of my closest friends here by going up to her at a table because I noticed she was sitting alone. After getting to know her, I found out she was the only person in her entire program in Barcelona, and that she was having a hard time making friends. A simple hello can go a long way.
3.) New personalities and perspectives
ISA students come from a variety of different backgrounds. Not only are people from different hometowns, but they also may have different upbringings. Being able to meet new people who have different views on life is a great way to become culturally aware and accepting of other’s views (even if they differ from yours). Sometimes you are unaware and tend to overlook some of the differences between your culture and another one. A student from my intercultural communication class was surprised when she found out that I only had one last name because in her culture it is common to have three. She was able to teach me about the importance of family in her culture, which was a part of the reasoning behind each of her surnames.
4.) You’ll have new friends to visit all around the world
Studying abroad and traveling across Europe has exposed me to people from all over. Getting to know the locals in your city is also an effective way to learn about the culture and history that it has to offer. Your new friends and acquaintances can help you find the hidden gems that a regular tourist wouldn’t have the chance to experience. Even the students you meet from the states are from all over so you will have a list of places to spend your school breaks in. Luckily, my roommate is from Arizona so now I have a reason to visit.
5.) It helps you improve communication and social skills
In our digital society, the art of walking up to someone and starting a conversation is often lost. In this generation when we feel uncomfortable in a setting, we hide behind our phone screens and scroll through pointless social media posts. Being able to network and socialize with people face to face is such an important life skill to have. Having to introduce yourself to new faces helps with building confidence. People in real-time have interesting stories and experiences to share so pick at stranger’s brains!Ayana Latimore is a student at University of Tampa and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad abroad with ISA in Barcelona, Spain.
Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.