I have never been one to have a huge group of friends. Throughout college and high school, I maintained close friendships with a handful of people. This never bothered me, although I imagined that going abroad would give me a much larger social circle. I pictured instantly clicking with a lot of people and doing all of my daily activities with them. During these past three weeks in Barcelona, I have felt unexpectedly lonely at times. I have returned to my apartment some days after a lot of social interaction at my internship feeling exhausted, but still uneasy about being alone. At the same time, a main goal of mine when deciding to do this program was to become more independent. One thing that the occasional loneliness of studying abroad has taught me is how to be more resilient and accepting of the uncomfortable feeling of solitude in a foreign place.
It’s not that I haven’t made any friends so far. I go out to eat, wander around the city, see other towns, and hang out in the apartment with my roommates and other people from my program. I’ve also met a number of people at my workplace and recently connected with a coworker who is my age. Despite doing all of these things with my new friends, I have found myself spending a decent amount of time on my own. At home and college, I did things alone all the time and usually didn’t feel lonely. Since this is the first time I have lived in a city, I was intimidated by the idea of venturing out of my apartment on my own. Even walking to the grocery store or a park made me anxious in the first week of the program. After a few weeks, however, I have gained an appreciation for hanging out with myself.
One Thursday afternoon after my work day ended, I rushed as fast as I could to meet a couple of friends at the Picasso Museum. The commute took longer than expected, and I got to the museum right when they had finished their visit. I considered heading back to the apartment, but I decided that there was no reason not to tour the museum on my own, especially after practically sprinting to get there by the time on my ticket. That afternoon ended up being one of my favorite memories of Barcelona so far. I was able to see the museum at my own pace without having to talk to anyone after a long day at work. I also got to wander around El Barrio Gótico afterward and see shops I may not have seen if I were with a group.
Overcoming loneliness isn’t about filling up all of your time with social activities. From an introvert’s perspective, being around tons of people or going to crowded places can make me feel even more isolated. I’ve personally been able to feel less lonely by creating a balance of social time and alone time. It may seem obvious, but keeping in contact with family and friends from home is super important too. And for those who may also be feeling lonely or nervous about being independent while traveling, don’t fret! You aren't alone in that feeling. Don't be afraid to explore your host city on your own. It might feel weird at first, especially if you are living in a city for the first time like I am. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t make a lot of friends right away (or at all!). You may meet the friend you’ve been hoping for on the first day or weeks into your program.
I always thought I would never be able to travel alone. While it's fun to have a travel buddy, I’m glad that I now have the confidence to explore new places independently if I want to.
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<p>I am a recent graduate from Lake Forest College with a bachelor's in Environmental Studies and Spanish. I am passionate about environmental justice and sustainable living, so I am thrilled to be interning at REVOLVE Mediterraneo in Barcelona this summer. During college, I had fun being involved in the environmental club and Campus Sustainability Committee. In my free time, I love being outdoors, crocheting, and cooking new recipes.</p>