Individuality is a characteristic that is hard to grow. Pushing yourself past boundaries like loneliness, boredom, decision making, and responsibility can be a big task for someone who has grown up in a community of support. Studying abroad allowed me the opportunity to grow in these areas. I was the only student from my university (Texas Tech) who attended the CEA program in Prague, Czech Republic -- meaning the visa process, application, plane rides, and minor tasks were done completely by myself. While this can be daunting and very stressful, this is not an excuse to stop this amazing journey you are about to experience.
While there are disadvantages to being an individual in this process, like the stress of paperwork and deadlines, decision making, and thoughts of the unknown, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Studying abroad has allowed me personal growth, friendships to last a lifetime, and so much more. Decisions were a lot easier to make because you are deciding for one. You can eat at that cute café you saw down the road, or visit the store with the pretty window display. My confidence has grown, and I am more willing try new things and meet new people. For example, before arriving to Prague, the students going made a GroupMe. It was not used a lot, but there was one girl I eventually reached out to and we ended up becoming good friends. I ended up becoming friends with her roommates as well, and we all established a friend group. We have stayed in contact since coming home, and we plan to meet up this summer. Use the resources available to you, because who knows what you can get out of it?
Solo trips are another amazing part about traveling alone. While abroad, I took a week-long trip to Munich, Germany. Although I did this completely by myself, I felt I had friends the whole time. While on a free walking tour (I highly recommend these, and they are offered in most cities) I met a girl from Singapore. Later in the week, we met and visited another local site and had lunch together. This was just one unique experience of many that happened that week. If I had been with even one person, I would not have been able to meet the people I did.
To make this transition easier, I have a few recommendations I learned along the way. Don’t take life too seriously and miss out on the opportunities surrounding you. You’re going to be nervous and that’s understandable, but don’t let the fear hold you back. Always remember: you're not alone. FaceTimeing family and friends back home often is important to not only you but them as well. If this doesn’t help, find the things you used to do at home. If you ate out every Saturday night with family, find an alternative abroad. Gather friends or roommates and cook a meal every Saturday night. Little things like this can help you mentally get over that loneliness. Don’t be afraid to talk to people when things are bothering you. Roommates or friends are great, but another amazing resource is the CEA staff. They are there to help and have good advice.
Now, off to your adventure you go! Approach it with confidence and determination, and remember you don’t have to be alone. Many others have been in your exact position. Alumni will also look for any excuse to talk about their experience, so please reach out.
Kendall Bannowsky is the Fall 2019 Alumni Ambassador in Prague, Czech Republic, and is currently studying at Texas Tech University.