Defying the Buddy System

The “buddy system” has been drilled into our brains since we were in preschool, but how relevant is the concept when you’re studying abroad?  From my experience last fall in Glasgow, Scotland, sticking with a friend is not always the best policy.  Although there are undeniable benefits to consistently exploring with a companion, it is almost equally important to fly solo occasionally. 

Wandering around your unfamiliar city by yourself might seem incredibly intimidating, but it is simply the best way to get know your new home.  My first day in Glasgow was spent meandering the cobblestone streets, walking in and out of little shops, exploring the university’s campus and getting lost at various points throughout the day.  I was so busy taking in the sights and snapping pictures that I never once felt lonely.  After making a few friends that week, a group of us walked around together, exploring just as I had by myself the first day.  With five us exploring together, it was less about where I wanted to go and more about where the majority of us agreed upon going.  Maybe I am just selfish, but aside from the fact that I enjoyed everyone’s company, I found myself annoyed that I was skipping places I was truly interested in visiting, just for the sake of the group as a whole. 

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum (less than a 5-minute walk from my flat!)

Throughout the rest of the semester, I made a promise to myself that I would not forgo visiting any sight or shop simply because I could not find a buddy to join me – and it was the best decision ever!  Don’t get me wrong, I made some of the best friends of my life and certainly spent a lot of time exploring with them.  But when I wanted to go the museum just down the street from my flat and no one else seemed interested in joining, I put on my raincoat and Wellies and toiled through the rain, happily alone. 

From my perspective, exploring Glasgow (or any city) is best done through a combination of the buddy system and independence.   There is no question about the importance of making friends and spending time touring your host city with them.  But if you do your own thing from time to time, you will learn some invaluable skills, gain confidence and get to know yourself better in the process!

Tips for Safety:

*While it is perfectly fine to explore alone during the day, it’s not recommended to do so after dark.

*Make sure a friend knows where you are going and when you expect to be back.

*Be aware of your surroundings and look out for “red flags”

*Always bring your cell phone and a city map along in case you get lost!

Mikaela Gibson, DU Study Abroad Alum, University of Glasgow ‘11


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