By Emma Buchman
I’ve mentioned in some of my previous articles that sometimes being alone can be just what you need to make your study abroad experience the best that it can be. This isn’t just so that you can give yourself space. It’s also so that you can do the things that you may not have been able to do if you constantly relied on other people.
Over the course of my life as an only child, I have perfected the art of being alone. It’s not only something that I need to do, but also is something that I want to do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends, and my life would be incredibly meaningless without them. There are a lot of occasions where all I want to do is just barricade myself in my room, order a pizza, and watch movies. It gives me the chance to be alone with my thoughts and to do the things that I want to do without having to worry about working around the input of others.
This talent can be useful when studying abroad, especially when you’re in a centrally located place like London or Paris. There is so much to do and so little time, and not everyone is going to cater to your very specific madness. For instance, I am a big Alan Turing fan, and I decided earlier on in the semester to take a weekend to go to Manchester (where he worked) and Wilmslow (where he died). Initially, I planned this trip completely on my own, but when I told other people in my program about it they started saying that they might come along too, so that they could explore Manchester as well.
As time went by and I was preparing to go no one else was able to go with me, so I was once again in it alone. I could have decided to scrap the trip and stay at home. Instead, I said, “Oh well,” went on my way, and had an amazing time. Wilmslow was a beautiful town that reminded me a lot of downtown Annapolis. From the moment I arrived I fell in love with it, and I cannot wait to go back. I got there early in the morning. that the sun was still not too far up in the sky. It made everything feel warm and inviting. I walked all over that place, from the town center to where Turing lived, which was as good 25-minute walk. Even with a heavy coat and an even heavier bag, I didn’t regret a second of it. Since Turing is so close to my heart it was probably best that I went by myself so that I could have my own thoughts and worry about my own feelings while going on this trip.
After spending the morning in Wilmslow, I took a bus to Manchester and spent the night. What had been a calm day turned into an adventurous night, filled with a lot of fun and, surprisingly, new friends. The next day, I went to the John Rylands Library and got to see the statue of Turing that sits in Sackville Gardens. The entire trip was perfect and not even a homophobic man trying to get my number in front of Turing’s statue could ruin it.
Wanting to be alone is often stigmatized and even when you like being alone you can feel like you’re weird for going against the grain. Being alone is not only healthy, but also offers some of the best experiences that you will have. Visiting Wilmslow and Manchester will be one of my favorite memories from this semester because it showed me exactly what I was capable of doing on my own (constructing the aforementioned barricade in my room does not require a lot of skill). What could have been a boring and regretful weekend at home turned into an unforgettable time. I broadened my vision of what England has to offer and enjoyed the most surreal experience of my life (seriously, going to a house where your favorite human died is haunting). When I returned to London, I felt refreshed and ready to take on a 7,000 word dissertation. Hooray for me.