There are two things that could potentially happen when you go on a University exchange alone. Firstly, you could fall into a black whole of misery, or secondly, you could own it. There are five emotional stages to studying abroad, all which everyone faces at all different moments of their study abroad experience.
Currently, I am one month into my study abroad experience, and these stages are inevitable. You can either choose to make the most of your experience and get involved in as much as possible, or let these stages take over your emotional stability.
Stage One: Excitement
What’s not exciting about going away for a period of time to the country of your choice to study abroad? To take on an opportunity so many others wished they could do also, to have a life in another country and experience the local way of life. Venturing out alone and as a solo individual into a new world, away from your comfort zone and support networks, to ultimately being independent and reliable on no one but yourself, is a blessing in disguise. Some see this opportunity as self-discovery while others may see it as a time to get to know yourself, either way you wish to view your time away, excitement should be the initial reaction and something that stays with you throughout the entire experience.
Stage Two: Disorientation
So now you have arrived, in a new place and a new environment. This is where you will feel out of place and perhaps overwhelmed by the new city and new way of life. Making the room or home you are living in feel like a comfort place should be your focus at first, as this will be where you will spend your time. Remember, it is normal to feel like you have no idea what is going on, or you may even feel unsafe in your environment purely because it is an unfamiliar place. Take time to get to know the place you are in, go running, walking, catch public transport. Jumping straight in and immersing yourself within your new environment will help you to become familiar.
Stage Three: Loneliness
This is always the toughest and most frightening of all the stages, loneliness. For some, facing loneliness can be a comforting challenge. You can not just see your parents, or you friends or the people you naturally surround yourself with. Instead, you have to face it, and when you do don’t be frightened by this. Being a solo traveller, you have the freedom to do whatever you want, in this case you are limited as you have the responsibility of classes. Don’t let this stop you, join groups, take weekends away, get into a book or TV series. Loneliness will only defeat you if you let it. Making friends is the best way to overcome this, and the best way to feel as if you have a family in your new home, a new support network.
Stage Four: Homesickness
Homesickness is normal, very, very normal. You may miss the little things from the taste of chocolate to your beloved bed. This will pass, and it will not be a permanent feeling, so don’t freak out. Soon, overtime, your new home will become home. The chocolate will grow on you and the smell of the air around you will become a new everyday scent. If homesickness is a hurdle you just can’t get over, and you really can’t accept the chocolate, use this experience as a personal development, use this experience as a way to gather what you truly want from life.
Stage Five: Acceptance
You’ve finally come to a place where you can accept the situation you are in, an experience of a lifetime. In most cases, there is only one chance to do study abroad, and this chance should not be made negative by negative thoughts and self loathing. The only way you are going to make the most of your time, is to essentially make the most of it. Get out of bed, go to the town, book a flight, suggest morning tea with your new friends, network, speak out and take up a hobby (like learning to cook).
Even with acceptance, there will still be ups and downs, but no matter where in the world you are this is life, and one must learnt to not let the bad dictate their life nor let it result in negativity. Learning to deal with situations such as good and bad, is a life hurdle that ends in peace and self happiness, and learning to do this away from your support network is a step to a stronger soul and personality.
If you want any advice about these stages and how to cope, please feel free to contact me.