By: Sam Rae Harriss, University of Victoria, winner of the Spring 2022 BC Study Abroad: Stories from Abroad Scholarship
Study Abroad Destination: Netherlands
Studying abroad creates so many new opportunities for exploring the world and its languages, cultures, and people, offering a great challenge but also great rewards. While when preparing for my exchange semester in the Netherlands I was beyond excited to meet new people and make new friends, and I also knew that I wanted to use this opportunity to take on some smaller solo trips of my own, too, as a challenge to myself.
Solo travelling is amazing in its ability to help you grow and learn more about yourself but can also be very difficult. When I decided to take advantage of a long weekend in May and do a solo trip to the town of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, I had never attempted a solo trip of the kind before, and had no idea what to expect. I flew into Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, without a bus or train ticket to the small town and extremely limited knowledge of the Czech language, so I had to figure everything out by myself relatively on-the-fly.
Over the course of the weekend, I managed to create and follow through on my plans, asking locals in broken Czech how to find particular trains, wandering through the colourful and historic streets of Karlovy Vary, exploring an ancient castle in the nearby mountainous town of Loket, and enjoying the comfort and ease of my own company. I reveled in the freedom of only making decisions for myself, doing whatever I wanted when I wanted, and I took pride in my ability to do everything all by myself.
Undeniably, I felt lonely at times when there was no one to share my ups and downs with. However, it quickly became clear that proving to myself that I could travel on my own gave me a strong new sense of confidence, maturity, and self-compassion that made it worth it. Discovering the challenges but also satisfaction of solo travel was a key component of my study abroad semester, allowing me to learn more about myself and grow in a new way I hadn’t experienced before.