In Defense of Alone Time

Kate Jock Edinburgh Internship Program, Scotland


February 13, 2019
Currently Studying: Edinburgh Internship Program, Scotland
Homeschool: Arcadia University

I quite missed the UK. Having arrived just a few short weeks ago in the Scottish capital, a city I’d never visited during my first semester abroad, I found myself smiling at the chill in the air, the grey of the sky most days. The weather may be rather pitiful at best on most days, but it’s something I once grew used to.

On a grey day—one of many—recently, I had a latte in my new favorite coffee shop. I sat with my eyes glued to my phone for the few minutes between finishing my coffee and rising from my seat to pay my bill. Opening Instagram, I experienced the usual onslaught of study abroad related photos that any Arcadia student might see in their feed. They span every corner of the world, whether students post photos at their new homes in places like New Zealand and Greece, or the sites of their weekend getaways in Fiji and Amsterdam. They’re climbing mountains, they’re on sunny beaches, they’re smiling and happy.

One thing often strikes me about them: they’re often in packs.

A goal that tends to be common among study abroad students, the one tucked away on to-do lists in journals or a note on a phone app, is “Make new friends!!!” I cannot discount this. I have loved getting to know new people as part of my study abroad experience. Some of the best people in my life came from my first semester abroad in London, and I’m having a lovely time making friends this time around as well.

Here is the thing, you do not have to spend all of your time with your friends. Maybe you’ll feel pressured to do this. I have afternoons where I absolutely feel compelled to go out into the world with a group full of people and explore.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing that alone.

Everyone has a social battery. Some people’s batteries last longer than others, spanning hours or days at a time, allowing them to functionally spend time with people for these long periods of time. They can manage to be a meaningful presence in a social gathering, put forth new ideas, and contribute to conversations for the long haul. Some people’s batteries run out a lot faster.

There’s not a single thing wrong with that.

Taking time to recharge, to reconnect with yourself and the things that make you happy and uniquely yourself? We don’t talk about those things enough, and I think when we throw ourselves into these brand-new situations like a semester abroad, we tend to neglect ourselves. You can read every single list and article about self-care that Buzzfeed publishes, but you might still not be doing yourself a big favor.

Believe me, there are days when I find this really difficult. I want to be able to be present for every moment, for every pint and day trip and museum visit. I want to be part of the pack. The “fear of missing out” gene did not skip my generation. Some days, it is really hard to say no and to just take the afternoon for me. Some days, I don’t, and I choose to go along.

Some days, I spend an afternoon alone. I’ll see a film, walk along the Union Canal, go to a museum, or just get my laundry done. I take the time to be alone and remember, especially on days where I struggle, why I took a big leap and came to Edinburgh in the first place. Getting in touch with myself was at the top of my list of goals. I need to carve time out to do that.

There is no shame in doing things alone. Go see a new exhibition, or get your grocery shopping done. Maybe attend a play or a show, or put in your headphones and take a walk. Open that book you brought with you to read on the plane before you saw that they had the whole first season of The Good Place available to stream in the air. Buy yourself a cup of coffee. Take a nap.

Making the most of your study abroad experience can hinge on whether or not you choose to take care of yourself. If you wouldn’t go a day without letting your phone recharge, you shouldn’t put yourself through the same thing.