Studying abroad is a great opportunity to meet new people and network, but constantly being surrounded by people can get exhausting. With host families, classes, and volunteering, it can be difficult to find free time to do the things you enjoy. As my time in South America comes to an end, the final week of Spring Semester in the Andes is spent as a group, traveling through Lima, Cusco, and Aguas Calientes, Peru. As much as I appreciate the group dynamic and diversity of thoughts and opinions that it brings, I value alone time as much as any introvert. With a full itinerary and constant flights, buses, and trains to catch, going off on your own can be risky. However, there are certainly ways to achieve safe and quality “me time” in between hectic study abroad schedules.
Take advantage of free time.
Most study abroad coordinators try to fill students’ agendas with excursions and seminars throughout the week so you feel like your money and time are being well spent. However, it is very common for them to include free afternoons or a free day for you to explore on your own. Whether it is a two hour period before dinner or a full day, take advantage of the time you are given to do your own thing. For my free day in Cusco, Peru, I took solo tours of Museo de Arte Popular, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, and Museo de Histórico Regional, followed by lunch at a cafe and a visit to the central park in Cusco, Plaza de Armas. Before walking around a new city by yourself, make sure you look at a map to plan the route you’re walking and, obviously, keep all your belongings safely tucked away.
Wake up early.
Getting up an hour or two before the first event on your program’s schedule can be a great way to get some time to yourself before the whirlwind of group-travel. Since most of my day and weekend trips generally start around 8 or 9 a.m., I’ve found that setting my alarm a little bit earlier and waking up to take a walk, do yoga, or even just sit outside on the balcony have helped to center myself and prepare for the day. Living in a host family’s house and sharing a hotel room with other students does get old sometimes, but seriously setting aside time to recharge makes it a lot easier.
A semester spent studying with students from all over the world will teach you life lessons and only add to the fun you will experience. Plus, it is not all that difficult to find time alone when you need it. Spending time by yourself in a different city can be extremely introspective and liberating, so long as you are responsible and aware of your surroundings.
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