By Olivia Overmoyer, For The Miami Student
While sitting on a bench in the lobby of the Farmer School of Business, first-year Bianca Oviedo accomplishes what many students cannot do without fear and anxiety. She sits alone.
“I feel like, at college, we’re all living our own separate lives and sometimes you just need to do things alone. I know people worry about it. I know a lot of people that can’t really go to the dining halls by themselves,” Oviedo said, “but it doesn’t really bother me.”
In a 2015 study by Rebecca Ratner and Rebecca Hamilton, data analysis showed people were more likely to willingly participate in activities such as dining out or going to the movies when with one or two others than when alone.
Many students feel that eating alone and taking moments of solitude can hurt their social standing. In actuality, for some, solitude can lead to new friendships and experiences.
“I learned how to not be shy when it was necessary and I learned how to talk to other people,” said Madeleine LaPlante-Dube.
As a junior currently studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland, LaPlante-Dube decided to take some time for herself this winter and set off on her own for a week-and-a-half, spending time in Amsterdam, Germany and Switzerland.
“I came back from the trip feeling extremely liberated and empowered,” said LaPlante-Dube. “I know that sounds cheesy, but I really did.”
LaPlante-Dube is not the only Miami student taking a solo trip while abroad. When senior Drew Pinta traveled by himself around Germany and Scotland, he gained a lot from his time alone.
“It felt a lot more immersive, it felt more legitimate, it felt like a real experience when I was alone,” Pinta said.
Once spending time alone becomes a comfortable practice, it can be a positive break from routine.
“You get the chance to do all these crazy adventures, like I went swimming in the North Sea on New Year’s Day in the Netherlands,” said LaPlante-Dube.
A 2014 study by psychologists at Harvard University and the University of Virginia found that 67 percent of men and 25 percent of women preferred to receive a small, electric shock than spend 15 minutes sitting by themselves thinking. This study focused mainly on college students.
For some students, though, processing thoughts in solitude can create lasting memories.
“I know that when I was alone in Scotland, this song that I really like — but I never hear in America because it’s a British hit,” said Pinta, “it started playing in this restaurant I was at and I got kind of excited about it, but there was no one to tell about it but me so I just kind of reveled in the moment for myself. That in itself had its own value.”
Setting off alone in a foreign country isn’t for everyone, but students who are trying to get over the fear of being alone can start right here on campus.
“Sometimes it’s nice to just have some alone time and think, work on your own work, not have to worry about conforming to anyone else, or even having to share your life with anyone else,” said Oviedo.
For many students, college is the first time living away from home and making big decisions by themselves.
“That’s a good time to use to figure out things about yourself that you value, when no one else is around,” said Pinta.
If nothing else, LaPlante-Dube says being alone can lead to greater adventures.
“I found at the end of my trip when I was like ‘Oh yeah, I can do anything.’ It was weird that I hadn’t realized that before,” LaPlante-Dube said. “I think a lot of people sort of go through life like that and need some sort of trigger to figure out that they can do whatever they want and traveling alone and spending time alone was that for me.”