Waking Up Alone In a Foreign Country

I’d spent much of the last summer in Europe and Scandinavia, but then I was either traveling with people I knew or in a group that would stay together for a few weeks, so I was never on my own. But the next summer I went to Germany for over two months, and although the experience itself was exciting (I was there during the world cup!), the first night was terrifying.

Arriving in Germany and hearing the language all around me was exciting. I’d gotten an internship in Germany through a program I found online, and I met up with the coordinators and some of the other students in the program in the hotel we would be staying at for the night. After that, we would be on our own to take a language course in a little building in Berlin, or off to start our internships elsewhere in Germany.

Our internship group went out together that night, and although I really wanted to go to sleep since I was jet lagged and we had an early day the next day, I cant think of anything worse than not making friends in a new place, so I went out, we got back to the hotel late, and I went up to my room.

Most people were assigned roommates but mine was a no-show. It wasn’t a very pretty room, and definitely not cozy or inviting, with an awkward shower that leaked into the rest of the room and a toilet in a tiny closet-sized space.

But I showered even though it was late, and I was feeling awful as I got in the top bunk of a bunk bed with nobody to talk to, my family and friends in a different time zone and me with an expensive cell phone plan and unable to call them, my feet aching terribly from walking around in heels all night, in this dark and uncomfortable room in a new country, a place where I hadn’t made any close friends yet and I would have to wake up in just a few hours to do who knows what, and then spend the next 2 months trekking around Germany working for some company that hadn’t even told me what my job was yet. And on top of that I was exhausted.

I woke up maybe half an hour later, in a state of complete terror and confusion, with absolutely no idea where I was. The room was still dark, and I was propped up awkwardly on my pillow, not even having made it to the laying-down position before I fell asleep. It took me around a full 30 seconds to figure out what room I was in- I placed the bunk beds, the window and the bathroom- and then it took me a little while longer to remember that I was in a random hotel in Germany and all the worrisome feelings of facing the unknown rushed back to me. That, and the fact that now I had even less time to sleep.

Yes, it was a horrible night. I would rate it one of the worst of my life. But, here is the good news and the moral of the story. The next day was perfectly fine. I made some friends, explored some of Berlin, and talked to the people Id be living with during my internship the next month. Id worried for nothing, and those feelings never came back. I did ache to go home toward the end of the summer, but that’s a different story.

The point is, going to a new place is nothing to be scared of. If you are traveling long-term, by yourself, for the first time- you may be scared. But don’t let it stop you.