Before I came abroad, I went out of my way to talk to everyone that I possibly could that had studied abroad. I wanted to get every piece of advice so I could really make sure I made this the best four months of my life. I found that every person I talked to told me the same exact thing: I needed to take a solo trip. I was nervous about this because in the states I had never traveled somewhere and not met up with someone that I knew. But, I decided that it was something that I needed to do for myself.
This weekend I did it; I accomplished my goal. I traveled to Santiago de Compostela. Going on this solo trip was by far the best decision I have made for myself in a while. When most people take their solo trips they stay in a hostel to meet other students who are studying abroad and traveling solo. I chose not to stay in a hostel because I had found a deal for a hotel for only 40 euro for the two nights I was there (and that meant I could stay up as late as I wanted and shower as many times as I wanted #homestayproblems). I could not find a hostel that could compete with that price, so I chose the hotel. Despite that, I met so many amazing people. I was able to connect with so many students that I would never have met. On my first day, I walked past a coffee shop using a map and some students stopped and asked me where I was from. We ended up grabbing coffee together and walking around that night together. This group of girls was an amazing group who were studying abroad in Portugal, just visiting for the weekend. We exchanged phone numbers and will definitely meet up again. After grabbing a coffee I just walked around and explored. There is something to be said about walking around a town you do not know by yourself; it is honestly so freeing. I was able to do anything I wanted. I stopped at a museum and explored, I stopped and explored the Cathedral, and I even did a free walking tour in Spanish. That night I went back to my room and had a cheap dinner that I picked up from the grocery store. It was absolutely an amazing day. I felt so free.
The next day I decided to venture out of town. Santiago de Compostela is a fairly small place, so I knew that I would want to get to explore some other places around me. I went on a tour with TourGalicia. It was absolutely amazing. I went to about 4 cities in the North-West of Spain that I never would have gotten the chance to explore. The tour was only 35 euros and was well worth the money. This trip took us to the coast, right by the ocean. I felt like I was right at home, both in Newport and in Stonington. Everywhere I looked I found similarities to home, from the little fish restaurants to a place similar to The Point. I had a smile on my face the entire time that I was there; I just felt so happy and free. On the trip, I actually made friends with a few women who were from Minorca. They were on a mother-daughter trip and were more than happy to let me practice my Spanish with them. We also exchanged numbers, and now I am looking at planning a trip to Minorca and staying with them. I have discovered that everywhere I travel there are always people who want to talk. I have loved getting to meet so many new people from so many different places. Traveling solo made me go out of my comfort zone and made me realize just how amazing the place I am living in is.
I am writing this as I am sitting in the airport in Santiago and am looking around outside and soaking in these last few hours of my solo trip. I would recommend to absolutely anyone that studies abroad that a solo trip is necessary. I learned so much about myself and what I was capable of, as well as met so many wonderful people. I definitely think there will be more solo trips in my future!
On a side note for all of those people looking to study abroad, the thing I was most worried about at this time was deciding where to live. My professors had encouraged me to do a homestay, and it was honestly the best decision for me. I am so happy that I made the choice to do a homestay for so many reasons. First, I LOVE my homestay mom. She is absolutely so wonderful. She calls me and worries about me but also gives great advice. She texted me all weekend wanting to hear about my trip. It is like having your mom with you 6,000 miles away. Second, I never worry about food. My host mom makes all my meals for me 7 days a week. Third, I do not have to do my laundry, change my sheets, or clean my bathroom. Wow. It is like being in middle school again, and part of me loves not having those adult responsibilities. Fourth, my homestay mom often has other students come and stay with us. We will have high school students stay with us for a week at a time from places all over Europe. I love getting to meet all these students and getting to talk with them for a while. Fifth, I have made a relationship that will never ever be lost. My host mom and I will always stay in contact. She has already promised to give me all her recipes, but that if I have questions I can call her anytime. She is always there to look out for me and helps me in any way that she can. So, for all you Salve students filling out those study abroad applications, check yes on a homestay 🙂
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