Miss Independent (Finding Confidence in Myself Abroad)

Kat Peterson
November 1, 2021

Ever since I was young, my parents have called me Miss Independent. 

As a kid, I was always wandering off on my own, playing imaginary games of my own invention, and as all independent kids do, waiting tirelessly to grow up. Traveling was always something that I intended to do, and as nervewracking as it was, I was even excited to travel alone to a new country where I didn’t know anybody. As my parents dropped me off at the airport, they reminded me how much courage and drive it took to do something like this—to leave the known and journey into the unknown with only a dim lantern of experience to light the way.

I had heard from other students who studied abroad that the experience would be one in which you become more confident in your abilities and challenge yourself like never before. They were right, but the process is not linear and has lots of ups and downs, which is totally okay!

Upon arriving in Spain, I was generally unsure and overwhelmed by the newness of it all, but moved with confidence and excitement for what was to come. The first few weeks of the program were a time I decided I would be a sponge and absorb all of the culture and places before diving in on my own. 

Independence doesn’t always equal spontaneity, and everyone responds to newness differently! For me, using that time to take a step back and observe, ask questions, and process helped me to build the confidence necessary to finally take the leap. I felt more comfortable exploring the city on my own, talking to locals in shops, and expressing myself once I had the base cultural knowledge I gained during the program orientation. 

Even as I practiced, there were good experiences and awkward experiences. Sometimes I would blank on a word in Spanish and have trouble communicating, and other times I could pass as a local. Sometimes I was able to go exactly where I wanted without directions, and other times I would get lost in the maze of cobblestone streets. Something I’ve learned throughout life and that has been confirmed while studying abroad is that growth is not linear. 

It sometimes doesn’t feel like it, but it’s possible to improve while still having your down days or times when you feel a little more dependent on others than you’d like to be. Usually, something small like successfully ordering a coffee without any breakdowns in understanding will be enough to remind me that I still have what it takes to make it on my own in a totally new environment. Other times though, it takes a bigger push or unexpected rush of spontaneity to bring Miss Independent to the surface. Luckily, I got to experience one of those pushes this weekend.

As I sit in the airport writing this blog, I’m reflecting on my experience this weekend traveling on my own from Granada to Ibiza. I had bought my tickets later than my friends who were going, which meant that I would have to leave a day later (from a completely different airport!) and stay in a different hotel from my friends. Even the process of booking the reservations and checking health protocols (usually in Spanish!) on my own was stressful and challenged me to be extremely organized. 

There was so much planning to do! I had to find a way to get myself from Granada to the bus station, the bus station to the airport, from the destination airport to my hotel, and the reverse! To be honest, I was unsure. There were times when I felt so nervous about the thought of traveling alone that I considered canceling everything, but I couldn’t be more thankful that I didn’t. It was time to bring together everything I had learned about traveling in Spain and my own abilities to make this trip possible. 

After checking all of my tickets compulsively and pulling myself up by my bootstraps, I made the trip. Luckily, there were hardly any bumps in the road! I had made it to Ibiza. I had done it on my own. This renewed sense of independence inspired me and made me even more energetic for my trip. The first morning I woke up on the island, I made the spontaneous choice to put on my raincoat and boots and go out in the pouring rain to explore before meeting up with my friends. Rain has always been a comfort to me, and this island rain reminded me of little Miss Independent who would rush outside in the summer rain and run around the yard leaping and playing. This was me at my most free, my most independent, my most confident. I felt the urge to try new things, use my language skills, and enjoy the moment, just like I had when I first arrived in Granada. This profound sense of trust in myself and the journey of study abroad even helped to pull me out of the mid-semester slump I was starting to fall into. 

If you’re experiencing the mid-semester slump, I recommend doing something on your own that will remind you of how much you have grown, like this trip did for me! It can be something as small as taking yourself out to dinner, or going on a day trip to a nearby city, or meeting your friends somewhere but traveling separately. Do whatever makes you feel safe and your most confident, free, and independent. And if you’re considering studying abroad, listen to the little Mx. Independent inside of you who couldn’t wait for an opportunity like this to come their way. Out of all the possibilities, this is my reality. The confidence in myself that I lacked before coming to Spain is fleshing itself out, and I couldn’t be more excited for what is next to come. :) Until next time!

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Kat Peterson

<p>Hi, I'm Kat! I'm a junior at Scripps College and come from a small town called Beaumont in California (about halfway between L.A. and Palm Springs). I am a Linguistics and Spanish, Latin American, and Caribbean Literatures and Cultures dual major. I would describe myself as a Netflix junkie and culture enthusiast. I love to have movie nights with my friends, talk to people about their ancestry, check out museums, and cook Buzzfeed Tasty recipes!</p>

2021 Fall
Home University:
Scripps College
Beaumont, CA
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