Before studying abroad, I was not an independent person at all. An example of this can be seen during my sophomore year. I go to college in New York City, so almost everything is dependent on walking. I needed groceries one week and refused to go alone until my friends had open time in their schedule to walk with me to the store because I was anxious to do a simple grocery run by myself. Looking back, this is entirely ridiculous, but at the time this was completely normal for me because I was very dependent on doing normal things with my friends. In Paris, I had to quickly step out of this dependent mindset and learn to do things entirely on my own if I wanted to make the most out of my time abroad.
Forming new habits is pretty hard, but once you do-you never go back. When you’re studying abroad, you can only count on yourself to make sure that you have the best time, and it isn't up to anyone else to determine how you spend your time. Therefore, if you spend most of your days in your room without going out to explore your new city—that is entirely up to you, but you will miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime.
There were a few days at the beginning of my study abroad when I really wanted to go and see some attractions and farmers markets, or go and have a picnic at a park. But my friends were sick, busy with class, or away on a trip. Due to this, I would then decide to stay in for the day and watch movies or catch up on laundry because I didn't have anyone to go with me to see these new things. I do not recommend anyone do this.
While there are some attractions (such as the Christmas markets) that are more fun to experience with friends—most things should and can be done with just you. I laugh at how overly dependent I was at the beginning of my time abroad because I could have seen way more in Paris if I had the guts to do a lot more by myself. Of course, I gradually got out of this mindset, and I even went to see the Mona Lisa by myself mid-semester. But the point is that when you go abroad, whether by yourself or studying abroad with a group of friends, you should plan to see at least one big thing alone because it is such a riveting experience to have full autonomy over your day and decide exactly how you want to arrive to your destination, how long you want to stay, and how much money you want to spend without having to focus on what other people want to do as well.
Planning and doing a big thing by yourself abroad is also such a peaceful experience. There will be many days abroad when you are stressed over coursework or miss home. Therefore, a big adventure by yourself would quickly help you calm yourself down, and you can find spots across the city where you feel most comfortable and those places could become your new hideout where you escape your stressors and immerse yourself into the culture. For example, my favorite hideout was Jardin Des Plantes in Paris. It is such a beautiful park, and it is easy to find a bench, relax, and take in nature.
Do not fall into or continue to stay in the trap of being overly dependent on others. If you do, you will leave your study abroad, regretting all of the things that you didn’t do because you didn't have the courage to go alone.
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My name is Alicia Strader and I am currently a junior at Fordham University. I am an International Studies major and I have a minor in the French language. I enjoy reading, socializing with my friends, and trying new restaurants.