When I arrived at university three years ago, I struggled to do what I wanted by myself. Considering that I was fresh from a small town on Long Island and suddenly living at a large university in Philadelphia, I was scared to be alone. I used to avoid going to new club meetings at Temple if no one on my floor wanted to come with me. I felt extremely uncomfortable if I ever had to sit alone for lunch, or even sit on a bench for a break between classes. Even when it came to walking across campus on my own to meet up with others, I felt like everyone would stare and wonder, who’s that girl by her lonesome? I just felt insecure.
Fast forward a couple of semesters. After settling into a more adult routine as a college student, I started to adore being on my own. Of course, I had my close friends to share my time with on the weekends. We would see a movie together, or go to a party, or just have a laugh. But, it dawned on me that everyone has their own self-interests and schedules – no one is you. Therefore, not everyone is going to do the same things that you want or need to do. I stopped tailoring my everyday life to others and just began following my own intuitions. This process helped me to turn a new leaf and become more independent.
How does all of this fit into my life abroad? Easily – My love for being independent is what brought me here in the first place. I figured since I was okay with spending time alone and even thrived at times with the independence that came along with it, that going away wouldn’t even bother me if (worse came to worse) I didn’t make the greatest of pals. Spending some time alone at Temple would be the same as spending time alone abroad, I thought.
As I am about a month into my studies here at UEA, I can proudly say, I did, in fact, make amazing pals – especially the people I live with. However, I didn’t realize how insanely vital they’ve been to my positive experience abroad. I know how that sounds, don’t get me wrong — I think friendships are the most important thing in life. I just figured that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t get on with anyone that well while abroad, because that is life and not everyone gets on with everyone.
As last weekend approached, half of my flat went home. I figured this was no biggie; I would just chill out at the flat, have some alone time. It would be cleansing. Well, after about only three hours of them being gone I was sending them a message saying, “I hate you all for leaving me!”
I went into the kitchen and had dinner by myself, went into my room and watched a movie by myself, laid in bed and giggled at funny twitter posts by myself, and it just didn’t do it for me. I missed my friends… like, so much. Of course, it wasn’t that I didn’t expect to miss them. I just didn’t realize how strong of a connection I’d built with them in such a short amount of time. It truly made me realize that without them, being alone here would just be terrible. Having a group of people to support and be supported by every day, to laugh with, to open up to and share stories with is imperative while being abroad in another country. Being alone – and I mean actually alone – in a foreign country is not the best feeling in the world. The friendships that I have fostered so far while being here have become everything. All of this has made me come to realize the following: there’s no shame in disliking being alone at times. Sometimes we just need our family.