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Beedie School of Business
International Communications and Marketing Assistant
SFU Student

Gloria Lai looking at the mountain view in Hong Kong
Gloria Lai (Hong Kong)
Travelling alone provides a unique opportunity for self-reflection, the ability to exert your independence, and the opportunity to let your hair down and be more willing to take risks.

In a time where our personal lives are very much intertwined with our professional lives, taking vacations often comes at the price of missing work.

What if I told you there was a way you could do both?

Opportunity to travel…check!

Earn an income in a job that interests you…check!

Look no further than participating in an International Co-op work-term!

Why You Should Travel Alone

Travelling alone can seem like a daunting task. You are alone in an unfamiliar country or city, possibly outside of your comfort zone. While solo travelling may have its cons, the positives heavily outweigh the negatives. Travelling alone provides a unique opportunity for self-reflection, the ability to exert your independence, and the opportunity to let your hair down and be more willing to take risks. Overall, it is a great chance for students to enhance their personal and professional development and is worth doing at least once in your lifetime.

Tips To Get You Started

When travelling alone there are more responsibilities on your shoulders, and with it comes additional stress and planning. Here is a list of tips to help ease the burden and stress of preparing to travel alone:

  • Research the company you will be working at.

  • Ensure you have a general understanding of the local transportation system:

    • You should be able to get from home to work and from home to the grocery store

  • Create a bucket list of activities you wish to accomplish.

  • Research locations you want to visit:

    • This can include sightseeing locations on your time off, or restaurants to dine at.

  • Make an emergency contact information list:

    • Include phone numbers to call

    • Locations you will be staying at

    • Work address

  • Get your paperwork done early:

    • Consider where you will be travelling and how long the VISA application process will take

  • Consider your finances:

    • Do you have enough money saved up for the cost of living and travel?

    • Is your employer providing any funding?

    • Have you applied for funding assistance?

Things To Look Out For: Loneliness and Cultural Bias

Travelling alone is not all sunshine and rainbows. Learning to deal with loneliness and adapting to cultural biases goes a long way when travelling abroad.


When travelling alone you may initially feel quite lonely because you will not be surrounded by the people you know. While this can be a scary experience, you should try to face any travelling anxiety head-on. Take this as an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and meet new people.

Remember you are not the only student working abroad. Therefore, do not be scared to talk to people and get to know them. Participate in activities that you want to do and you are likely to make a friend or two.

As for homesickness, it is quite possibly inevitable, especially in the beginning. However, as you familiarize yourself with your new environment, you will begin to miss home less and less.

Cultural bias

When travelling alone to another country, we often forget that what we perceive as cultural norms do not always translate. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of any cultural bias you may have and try to familiarize yourself with the new norms.

It is important to be mindful of normal behaviours and practices in your host country as a sign of respect. This will go a long way in fostering relationships, both at work and in your personal life.

What To Look Forward To

Solo travelling can be an empowering experience and it allows you to take some time out of your busy life for some personal reflection. It is an incredible opportunity to demonstrate independence, be adaptable, and take more responsibility. Here is a list of things to look forward to when travelling alone:

  • Meeting incredible new people and creating lasting friendships.

  • Making life-long memories:

    • Ensure you take plenty of pictures, you do not want to miss anything!

  • Personal development and growth - get to know yourself!

  • Budgeting skills

  • Boost in confidence

  • Learn about a new culture

  • Learn a new language

  • Get comfortable with being alone

Click here to watch past students reflect on their International Co-op experience and their experience travelling alone.

Self-Directed Co-op

If you are looking on myExperience and you are not finding any opportunities that stand out to you, do not be afraid to create your own.

Look at your network and reach out. If not, spend a few months emailing companies you are interested in working for. See if you can find a company willing to take you on as a co-op student. Keep in mind that this can be a long-drawn-out process however, it is important to stay positive and always look at new opportunities with an open mind.

Note: Be sure to run this through your co-op coordinator to ensure that it will meet the needs to qualify as an international co-op work-term.

Once you have secured an international co-op position, prepare yourself for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Click here, to view students reflecting on their own Self-Directed International Co-op work-terms, and listen closely for tips to take with you.

Beyond the Blog

International Communications and Marketing Assistant
SFU Student
visibility  137
Mar 5, 2020

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