No Worries Wednesday - Travelling Solo for the First Time

Exchange student in England
Author: Erinn Sturgeon

Going on exchange for a semester was a big, brave step for me. Before heading over to the UK for six months, I didn’t have much travel experience under my belt. I had only gone so far as the interior of BC, and across the border into Washington and Oregon. And I always had my parents and older sister with me.

Despite this, I felt determined and excited as I handed in my application to Education Abroad. I had always wanted to go to England, and I was inspired to embrace the opportunity thanks to a friend of mine and her amazing Instagram photos from her exchange. You could say I had tunnel vision. My dad was super encouraging, telling me how great of an experience it would be and how much my confidence would grow, but my mom and older sister were skeptical. “But you’ve never travelled by yourself before,” my sister pointed out. “You’ve haven’t even been on a plane!” This was true, but I pushed her concerns aside as I received my acceptance letter from the University of Hertfordshire, and began to prepare for my big adventure.

I kept a brave face during this process, but suddenly, as I was standing in the Nanaimo Airport with my family, I broke down in tears. I suddenly realized the extremity of what I was about to do – I was going across the Atlantic, to the other side of the world; and they weren’t coming with me this time. I had never been away from them for so long.

But I am so glad I didn’t listen to my sister that day. The initial nervousness is to be expected, especially when it’s your first time flying. But this solo adventure taught me so much about myself and pushed me out of my comfort zone in ways that couldn’t have happened if I had someone with me. A semester exchange is perfect for first-time travellers, because both the Education Abroad team here at VIU and at the partner institution of your chosen university help you with your planning and documents, and provide you with resources and contacts if you need them. Staying in the dorms at the partner institution is a great way to meet new people and get immersed in the events happening on campus. By being on your own, it pushes you to be more open and get to know people from another culture. I found I loved the independence, and I could do things on my time and my schedule. If I wanted to spend a day in London by myself, I could!

Technology is a blessing, and on days where you might feel a bit lonely, don’t be ashamed to reach out, and make sure to schedule regular Skype calls with your friends and family back home. But you’ll be having so much fun, you’ll find you won’t need them as often as you think!

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