Jacqueline Klimek is a Psychology student at Saint Joseph’s University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at the University of Sydney in Australia in 2015.
Being in a new country brings along new food, friends and adventures. While it is exciting, it can be scary too, and it’s easy to try to slip back into your comfort zone. This is exactly what I found myself doing, and I realized that something needed to be done about it. So, I decided to take a trip by myself. Now, it is important to keep in mind that this isn’t an option for everyone or for every country. But after I did some research and spoke to my student advisors, I felt comfortable with this decision.
Make your time abroad your own, don’t always follow what everyone else is doing. Pave your own path.
So how did I do it?
Pick a place that is close to your central location and that isn’t too complicated to get to. I chose to go to Airle Beach and the Whitsunday Islands for four days.
2. Do your research on the area.
Ask your friends, consult your program advisors, Google it; it’s helpful to get a feel of the location and things you can do there. I reached out to my friends who had studied abroad here the past semester and they gave me suggestions of where to stay and what to do.
3. Plan your accommodation and READ THE REVIEWS.
I made this mistake on my last trip up to the Great Barrier Reef. I was traveling for an entire week with this being my last stop and I stayed in a hostel that was recommended by a friend (one that I didn’t read the reviews for). What I didn’t know was that it was a huge party hostel with a club next door. The walls were actually shaking until 4 am. That made for an unpleasant 6 am wake up call for my flight the next day.
This is really up to you. I liked to plan my “big” excursions before I left and then decide on little things when I got there. On my Whitsunday Islands trip, I planned a three day, two night sailing trip before I got there and then when I arrived I figured out places to eat and explore.
5. Let people know your itinerary.
I can’t stress enough how important this is. Write down where you are going to be on what day, flight times and even a phone number for your hostel so that friends, roommates and program advisors know where you are and can reach you if necessary.
Also, it is important to remember that things will probably go wrong and not everything will be great. Maybe you’ll get lost, or miss a bus, and there will probably be times when you get bored or feel alone. You may start to question if this was even a good idea. All of those things are okay; it’s part of the experience. They are worth it because you have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. On my solo trips, I met people from Brazil, England, China, and from all over Australia. You’ll really test yourself and see what you’re made of. You’ll be forced to step outside of your comfort zone and to be truly independent.
These trips have also served as a good time for reflection. I was able to look back at what I’ve accomplished and to look ahead at what else I wanted to do with my experience abroad.
These experiences will be completely unique to you, and for me, it inspired me to keep travelling this way. I met someone who absolutely hated it, but you’ll never know until you try. So here I am daring you to do your own thing; make your time abroad your own, don’t always follow what everyone else is doing. Pave your own path. Whether it’s taking a solo vacation, joining a club at uni, doing an internship or just deciding to explore your own city. Do something that no one else is doing. This is my dare to you. Will you accept the challenge?