By: Ivy Liu
I was excited but also extremely nervous about my exchange, as it was the first time I was travelling on my own, and little did I know that I was embarking on an amazing adventure.
As soon as I arrived at my university in Scotland, I was eager to travel and make the most of my time here in Europe. I had no idea what to expect, and I imagined all the worst-case scenarios that could possibly happen to me during my travels. However, I can undoubtedly say that I had the most fantastic time abroad. Within the short 5 months, I was able to make my way to France, Germany, Amsterdam, Ireland, Greece, Spain and Italy.
Most people, associate travelling with rigorous and precise planning. They believe that the more detailed their travel plan is, the better the time they’ll have. However, this is exactly what I learned not to do on my trips. As for me, all the planning I would do involved booking flights, accommodation, and choosing a few top destinations to visit. As for the rest of the trip, I would just go with the flow. I did not have a day by day plan. Instead, when I woke up in the morning, I would simply ask myself what I would like to do today. Instead of attempting to follow a set travel schedule packed with activities, this flexible style of travelling allowed me to relax and enjoy my time in the new city I was visiting.
An important part of travelling is keeping an open mind. This means being open to trying new things and meeting new people. This may be daunting as it requires getting out of your comfort zone, but once you do, you will find amazing opportunities and experiences you wouldn’t have had before. By no means am I saying that you should do anything dangerous, but what I am trying to say is that you should say yes to opportunities instead of saying no. Only this way you can make the most out of your trips and truly immerse yourself in the local culture. The same applies to meeting new people abroad. When travelling, especially if you are a solo traveller, you should try to make yourself open to conversation. For instance, you could start a conversation by asking someone where they are from and why they are here. After all, it is the people I’ve met during my travels that made my time abroad so memorable.
You also need to keep in mind that not everything will go as planned. However, when something does go wrong, do not be upset or panic. An obstacle may present itself, such as missing a train or losing your phone, but it is absolutely not the end of the world. There will always be a way out of the situations, and being upset will only make things harder. Instead, try to remain calm and optimistic, remind yourself that things could always be worse. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help, you will be surprised by the amount of people that are willing to lend you a hand.
After all, no matter where you are travelling to, the most important goal is to have fun and make the most of your time. As cliché as it may sound, my trips abroad changed my perspective about the world. For anyone thinking about travelling, I would say to forget about your fears and just do it! You don’t need to be a travel expert or know the ins and outs of a country to have a great time. When you are exploring a new place, you will have fun no matter what.
Ivy Liu is a fourth student studying Commerce at McMaster University. She studied for a single term at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.