Finding Your Independence While Studying Abroad

February 22, 2017

I’m the youngest in my family. My mom calls me the ‘baby’ even though I’m 21 years old. I’ve basically never been truly alone, always traveling with my family or taking school trips with friends. Even at my home university, I’m a local and live at home with my parents. So, imagine my surprise when I discovered that I am actually really good at being (mostly) independent.

I had just finished my first taste of solo travel since my arrival - a day trip to Paris. I managed to book my train there and bus back, and I spent the day traversing the incredibly inspiring city all on my own. I even ate alone at a restaurant, which is something I never thought I would be comfortable doing. I saw The Eiffel Tower, walked along The Seine, journeyed underground to surface at the Arch de Triomphe and even climbed to the Sacre-Coeur Basilica overlooking the entirety of Paris. And I found, despite what I had originally thought of solo travel, the loneliness wasn’t sad or solemn. It was empowering. Probably for the first time since my arrival, I felt like I could stay here forever. After I returned back to Lille, I was riding on a high of self-confidence for a full day.

It was short lived.

Cut to two days later. I am in bed, my entire body covered in hives caused by some unknown allergic reaction, trying to sleep so I can get to a pharmacy in the morning to buy some allergy medication. When the itching and the discomfort became too much for me to handle, I called my mom — of course — and she convinced me to find an urgent care facility. So, I rallied all of my courage and my Word Reference App, and began a middle-of-the-night-in-France journey. I was able to organize a safe ride to the hospital, check in, be seen, get a prescription, and get a safe ride back to my residence all on my own, and in my broken French.

There is something about successfully navigating your way through events like this that makes you a stronger and more confident person. Having to explain to a doctor what’s happening to you when you don’t even know the French word for “itchy” forces you to dig deep within yourself and figure it out. This is something I would have never had to worry about back home — not only getting through the language barrier, but also navigating these two experiences completely on my own.

Who knows what’s around the corner, but this week, I found my independence. To me, that’s what this whole experience is about.

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