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4 Things That Happen When You Study Abroad Alone

You’ll Be Terrified…for Like a Minute

The moment I decided to move to Italy for four months on my own, to a place where I didn’t even know the language… well, it was terrifying. From leaving my parents at the airport, to landing in Milan – every part of it was scary – but it was an adventure.  One that I so desperately needed.

Sitting on the plane, waiting for takeoff, I couldn’t help but think the worst – “what if I don’t make any friends and I’m stuck in this city alone?”  I was obviously excited, but for some reason I couldn’t get this thought out of my head.  I finally convinced myself that everything would be okay, and sat back on the plane while my life changed forever.

You’ll Realize It Was What You Were Always Meant to Do

A few days in, I was already bonding with my roommates, was being exposed to an unbelievable new culture, and was meeting people from all over.  I never thought it would have happened so quickly, but I was already evolving into a completely different person.  I became stress-free and spontaneous for the first time in my life, and there was no one I had to worry about except myself.

I was also able to learn some really important life skills – cooking for myself, figuring out a foreign public transportation system – all the seemingly trivial things added to the confidence I was gaining in myself and the belief that I could do anything.  I saw so many new and exciting places that made me fall completely in love with traveling. I developed a passion for exploring the world while I was abroad, and now it is something that I will try to do for the rest of my life.

A lot WILL Go Wrong, but it’s Supposed to.

I missed my flight to Paris. I got pickpocketed in Barcelona. I missed my train HOME from Naples and had to sneak on a different one and sit on the floor for 5 hours because there was literally no other option.Things will go wrong. There were times when I felt so completely and utterly foolish that I thought I would never forgive myself. But, everything does happen for a reason. I made mistakes, but I learned to focus on how I can learn and grow from them instead of beating myself up about making them in the first place.  

You Will LOVE the Person You Become

Go abroad alone.  It’s absolutely terrifying at times, but it is the best thing that I’ve ever done.  Besides getting to experience the amazing cultures and food and languages – I learned so much about myself.  I got to see things that I never thought I would, and meet people who have helped me become the person I am today.  Being completely out of my comfort zone gave me confidence I didn’t know I could have, and security in myself that I didn’t know I needed.  Studying abroad on my own led me to some of my best friends & memories, and made me the person I was meant to become.


Images courtesy of the author. 

Shannon FitzGerald

U Mass Amherst '20

Shannon is a junior honors student at UMass Amherst studying Communication and Economics. Although she wishes she could be traveling all the time, she is usually found hanging out with her friends, binge watching shows on Netflix, and shopping wherever she can get the best deal!
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