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Like many college students, I have always been interested in the idea of studying abroad, but I was unsure of what to expect. Since coming to UC Davis, I’ve searched far and wide for a program that would connect to my major. Finally, I stumbled upon a program titled “Microbiology in the Kingdom of Smiles” located in Thailand which took place in the Summer of 2022. 

Typically, students involved in the same program are encouraged to travel together, but in my case, I was the only person traveling from San Francisco to Japan (the first leg of the trip), which resulted in my first solo international traveling experience. 

Traveling By Yourself is (Sometimes) Terrifying 

Not to be a fear-monger, but the process and logistics of traveling are usually better in theory than in practice and this was certainly true for me. In addition to making sure my money, passports, and ticket information were close to me at all times, the Thai government required additional documents for foreigners such as vaccine information and health insurance. All of these have to be presented before and after leaving the United States. But once you get past the anxiety of securing and presenting all of the required documents and getting settled at the airport, the next (and most important) step is the flight. While international flights can be very long, there is usually entertainment included. Since I am someone who gets anxious at the prospect of being suspended in the atmosphere and getting bored my best recommendation is to: 

Measure Time in Disney Movies 

My flight had an extensive number of movie options including two of my favorites, “Wall-E” and “Moana.” Thankfully I was able to engage with these options which helped me avoid focusing on the length of the flight. For me, the most difficult part of a long flight is trying to focus on the free entertainment without getting too absorbed into the hubbub of the plane itself. The constant white noise of the plane, the sounds of people talking, and children crying can be overwhelming, and it is totally okay to tune out the world for a few hours until you arrive at your destination. But if movies aren’t really your thing you can always prepare a playlist beforehand or, 

Use Sleep as an Escape 

Unlike flying on a domestic Southwest flight like I was used to, my flight had assigned seating. For those sitting with friends and family, this can be a great thing, but it’s not so great for a solo traveler who has no idea who you will end up sitting next to and the position of your seat (aisle, middle, or window) may be different than you expected. With this in mind, sitting next to strangers, especially in a less comfortable seat position, can be uncomfortable for various reasons. This coupled with the general exhaustion of traveling can create a fantastic opportunity to slip into the dream world and catch up on sleep before differing time zones begin to take their toll on your sleep schedule.  

But in spite of all of the challenges and coping skills needed to travel, reaching your destination is ultimately the most important and satisfying step. Traveling on your own can be challenging, but it was an important step in defining my independence and I now feel more prepared to undertake my next adventure. 

Jaylah is a third year global disease biology major. She enjoys traveling, singing along to musicals and discovering new music.