So, you’ve finally committed to a semester or two abroad. That’s pretty huge. Mark your calendar, because that fateful day will arrive sooner than you think. In the meantime, check out these five stages you’ll more than likely pass through during the wait.
Phase 1: Excitement
It’s finally real! You’ve gone to an Info Session (and maybe even a few support sessions), figured out where you’re going, sat through appointments, planned out your budget, finalized your accommodation, arranged your travel plans and made countless other preparations. You’re so ready. You’ve been daydreaming about this for what seems like ages, and now all that’s left is… the wait…
You can’t stop thinking about the places you’re going to see, the friends you’re going to meet and the experiences you’re going to have. You imagine every moment, from what you’ll eat for breakfast the day you leave, to how cool you’re going to look walking past airport security with your trendy “psh yeah, I travel” backpack, to that smirk on your face while your family has some sort of weird emotional moment as they watch you leave (okay… maybe just me).
Figure 1. An accurate representation of me leaving my family at airport security.
All you want to do now is to just leave…
Phase 2: Stage Fright
So… today is the day. It’s still real and the day no longer belongs to your imagination. Come to think of it, [insert destination airport] is pretty big… And I’m going to have all my stuff with me… And I’ll be alone… What if my ride doesn’t show up and I’m trapped outside the airport?
What if I get there and nobody wants to be my friend? What if they’ve all been friends for years, and just stand there judging me…?
Figure 3. If Robert De Niro was your roommate.
Okay, time to get a grip. You are ready for this, you’ve been waiting for this for months now and you know exactly what you need to do and where to go.
Take a deep breath, and get moving.
Phase 3: The Honeymoon
You’ve finally found your room and have settled in at this point. All of your belongings are “unpacked” or more likely displayed around your bedroom floor as if a hurricane just tore through and miraculously only touched the contents of your suitcase. No matter what though, you can tend to that later. Right now, you have some exploring to do.
You’ve scoped out the campus and parts of the city at this point, and you’ve made some friends already! What’s better is that they all seem to be in the same boat as you. You’re definitely not alone, and you feel silly for even thinking that before.
At this point, even though you’ve only been here a few weeks – you feel like you own the place.
Figure 4. Walking through the city for a night out with some new friends.
Long story short, you really love this place. You already feel yourself getting into a bit of a routine: you know where to shop, where to get a good cup of coffee, where to go for a fun night out, and the name of the guy that works in the International Student department of your university. Things are going great, but it can’t just stay this great the whole time… can it?
Phase 4: Take Me Home!
Clockwork. You remember them talking about this at those boring (sorry Karie, please don’t kill me) pre-departure meetings you attended, but it never really seemed all that relevant… until now.
All it took was one little thing: maybe you burned a meal you’d been preparing, maybe the washer broke mid-cycle with all your soaking clothes still in it, maybe your favourite professor is out this week and his replacement freaks you out.
Figure 5. Your new microbiology professor.
You’re a bit freaked out at this point, but you calm yourself down and Skype home for an hour. That helps a bit, and by the end of the next day you barely remember what was stressing you out in the first place.
Phase 5: Don’t Make Me Leave!
Okay, the day has come for you to finally return home – and you’re torn. On the one hand, it will be really nice to see family and friends again. That hand, however, is really small (I’m talking Donald Trump small).
Figure 6. Donald Trump and his tiny hands.
There’s also the other hand (and this hand is much more regularly proportioned): you will soon have to leave this wonderful place, never to return (at least as a Study Abroad student).
Figure 7. Your face when you think about going home.
It’s the bittersweet moment, and it’s here whether or not you want it to be. As you pack your bags, you are already filled with nostalgia. That doesn’t bother you though; you look forward to a future that allows you to smile at your past. In the words of Emily Dickinson, “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.”