For students who decide to study abroad, part of the appeal of coming to a place like Europe is the opportunity to explore other countries during their free time. A quick train ride to Paris, a short flight to Rome— it all sounds lovely and luxurious. But what people rarely discuss is the fact that you are essentially planning to travel to all these places with complete strangers.
Of course this is not always the case, but at a school the size of USC chances are you are not going to know most of the people in your study abroad program. Besides my roommate, I knew no one coming into this semester. We all arrived here and talked about different places we wanted to go, accepting the fact that we practically knew nothing about each other but were still willing to travel the world together.
This was all put to the test this past weekend, as my suitemates and I made our way to Scotland. I am happy to report that after three days, we all came out alive!
Scotland was a great first place to travel. Only a four-hour train ride from London, the journey proved quite easy for us. This may be in part due to the adorable baby sitting next to us on the train who kept us entertained the entire way there.
Soon after our arrival, my flat mates and I decided to climb Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park, perhaps the most touristy thing we did all weekend.
As beautiful as it was, I don’t think any of us knew quite what we were getting ourselves into. We cheerfully moseyed along to the park, none of us in appropriate hiking gear, only to realize after an intense 40 minutes, that we were climbing to literally the highest point in all of Edinburgh. Besides the grueling trek up to the top (I may have complained a bit more than my fellow travel companions), it was completely worth it. It was one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen. The only thing I can think to compare it to is “The Sound of Music” (and yes I did repeatedly and loudly sing “The Hills Are Alive” almost the entire way up).
The rest of the weekend included a visit to Edinburgh Castle, Greyfriars Kirkyard where J.K. Rowling picked up a few inspirations for Harry Potter names, and a walk around the University of Edinburgh (in which we saw dorms that could be mistaken for castles and subsequently all questioned our decision to stay in the U.S. for college).
On our last night, we all partook in a pub-crawl, in which over the course of six hours we visited seven different bars and clubs. All I will say in regard to this is that it was a very fun and memorable evening, but the train ride back to London was much less pleasant than the train ride there.
When you’re traveling with other people, there are two things I learned quite quickly: You have to be patient and you have to be willing to compromise. I have tons of friends back home whom I love and get along with very well, but I would never travel with them. When studying abroad, you don’t really get much of a choice as to who will be joining you on these journeys. You usually just end up traveling with the other people in your program.
As idealized as it may seem through pictures, traveling is intense and who you go with can make a very big difference in the outcome of your trip. When planning these weekend getaways together you’re taking a leap of faith because you really don’t know how you are all going to function together as a group. Everyone is different and has their own personal tastes and methods of traveling, and it’s more than likely that you will occasionally clash over some matters.
Luckily, my flat mates and I are a perfect balance of different personalities, which allowed us to get along just fine (and I say this wholeheartedly, not just because I know they’ll read this). In the end as a student studying abroad you never really know what type of people you’ll be exploring the world with. Keep in mind that things are never going to be perfect, because with traveling they never are. Just remember to be patient and willing to listen, and in the end, just make the best of it.