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Group Dynamics Within Travel

Baylor study abroad participants visit the Louvre.

It is no secret that people can make or break a place. No matter if you are in the most beautiful city you’ve ever seen, if you don’t enjoy your travel companions, it won’t be the wonderful experience you want it to be. Traveling brings out the best and the worst part of people’s personalities like no other. So, choose your travel buddies wisely.

Naturally, taking a trip to an unfamiliar place gives rise to leadership. Beforehand, planning has to get done. It is unwise to enter into a new country or even city without any prior knowledge of what there is to do and how to get around. The more Type-A people usually assume this responsibility, because they enjoy planning so much. When you’ve arrived and need to figure out how to get to your place of lodging, someone has to take on the role of navigator. Play to your strengths here; if you have zero sense of direction like me, do not try to lead the way. Just as important as the take-chargers are the go-with-the-flow people. They bring a sense of ease into the mix. If you only have leaders, who will follow? If you only have followers, who will lead? You don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen, after all.

There are two sides to every story, let’s not forget. While being naturally inclined to lead is an admirable personality trait, the negative side of that is bossiness and domination. If you desire to lead, you have to make sure you are giving others a chance to do so as well. If you are inherently more chill, you have to make sure your voice is being heard and that you are not letting your suggestions be walked all over just because others are speaking louder than you. Though I prefer to be in charge, I have slowly learned to relinquish that propensity and let others take the lead. I firmly believe that studying abroad shows you how to utilize your strengths and harness them in when they get out of control. This experience has a way of nudging you in the direction opposite your inclinations. Extroverts learn how to appreciate alone time because it is so scarce, and introverts learn to adapt to constantly being around people.

Let’s talk numbers. After being in Europe for two months, I can confidently say that traveling with smaller groups is easier. Although going on a trip with nine other people is fun and keeps things fresh, going on one with two or three others simplifies tasks like booking hostels, choosing restaurants, and walking from place to place without losing anyone. I recommend doing both so you can see the pros and cons for yourself.

Everyone plays a valuable role in travel. The presence or absence of one person can dramatically shift the group dynamics, just as it can in a circle of friends or a group project. Remember, studying abroad is your experience, but it is not only your experience. Like most things in life, it is a balance. A balance between making sure you get to check off everything on your list, but also accommodating others by putting their wants first sometimes.


About Tristen Coffee

My name is Tristen Coffee (yes, I do drink the stuff). I am a junior at Baylor University studying Journalism and Public Relations. I knew I wanted to study abroad before I even knew what dorm I’d be living in freshman year. I chose the Maastricht trip because of the weekend traveling opportunities. My thought process was: “Who knows if I’ll ever get a chance like this again?” I could not pass it up. I am absolutely stoked for the sights, the food, the people, and the enhanced worldview.

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