The Five Stages of Studying Abroad

Marist College provides its students with many excellent opportunities, but perhaps the most popular is the school’s extensive study abroad options. Within the past few years it has become a veritable coin toss for Marist students, as roughly 50 percent of them study abroad at some point during their college career. Marist ranks 13th in the country in terms of undergraduate participation in study abroad programs and 18th in the total number of students studying abroad, with approximately 550.

This means chances are high that you’ll consider going abroad at some point during your four years, so you should know what you’re in for. Last year, I studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland and, just two months into my journey, I experienced more emotional whiplash than Gary Busey on his morning commute.

Here are the five stages of emotions you’ll likely experience if you choose to go abroad.

1) Excitement:

This first emotional stage should really be sorted into the pre-abroad phase, as it generally occurs in the days leading up to your semester abroad. There will of course be a hesitancy lingering beneath your excitement, the typical fear that accompanies every new experience, but hopefully your head and your heart will be teeming with possibilities. You’ll have idealisms of what the experience will be like; you may even have a list of things you want to do or accomplish abroad—I recommend making a bucket-list before going. This is natural and it’s a good sign.

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2) Confusion:
As soon as you step off the plane and onto foreign soil you’ll be confronted with information and papers and bits of advice and the unfamiliarity of life in a new city. By the end of my first day in Ireland I had been awake for 35 hours straight, I’d traveled 3,000 miles, and I learned that there is little difference between delirium and insanity. The best advice I can give on this front is no matter how many times you’ve been warned of the chaos of the first day and no matter how prepared you feel for it, there will come a point when you’re ready to catch the next flight back to the states. Just fight through it and be ready to go with the flow.

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3) Homesickness:

We all know what homesickness looks like, and we’ve all experienced it before. This is likely the stage of studying abroad you’ve heard the most about and, for many, the fear of it is enough to prevent them from going abroad. The worst part about these first three stages—excitement, confusion, and homesickness—is that they all happen within about 48 hours. But that’s all it is: just 48 hours. Merely two days into my semester abroad and all of the worries, all of the homesickness, faded and disappeared across the endless Irish countryside. However, everyone will go through this differently. For some, it may take longer than two days and for some it may never come at all. No matter what, don’t let the fear of homesickness prevent you from going abroad.

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4) Acceptance:

At some point it will just click. Your transition will be natural—as swift and imperceptible as dusk falling into darkness. One day you’ll wake up and tread quickly through the city streets on your way to class; you’ll mentally mark restaurants, coffee shops, and park benches as “yours;” you’ll even condemn tourists in your head. The most important part of this phase, at least for me, is staying grounded. Even though I already feel fully acquainted with Dublin, I am continuously reminding myself to see everything in same remarkable and mysterious light I did my first day here.

There’s a reason the majority of people who go abroad say it’s life-changing: because, for most people, it is. This stage requires no advice, and luckily it’s the longest lasting of the five. You will find happiness and fulfillment in your own ways, often without consciously searching for it. I find it in the hum that permeates along the cobbled Dublin streets, in the thrill of losing myself in unknown places, and in writing my days down in journal entries and hoping the ink never dries.

Courtesy of wifflegif.com

5) Happiness:

There’s a reason the majority of people who go abroad say it’s life-changing: because, for most people, it is. This stage requires no advice, and luckily it’s the longest lasting of the five. You will find happiness and fulfillment in your own ways, often without consciously searching for it. I find it in the hum that permeates along the cobbled Dublin streets, in the thrill of losing myself in unknown places, and in writing my days down in journal entries and hoping the ink never dries.

Courtesy of gifrific.com

If you’d like to learn more about Marist’s study abroad programs, check out the Globetrotter magazine!

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