5 Emotional Stages of Going (and Being) Abroad
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5 Emotional Stages of Going (and Being) Abroad

Everything in life happens in stages; traveling is no different.

5 Emotional Stages of Going (and Being) Abroad

So, you're going abroad: to study, to work, to visit, or to travel the world. Congratulations! You've done your research, been accepted, your passport and any required visas are up to date, your flights and accommodations are booked, and your bags are packed. Now, it's time to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

Being abroad is an exciting, life-changing experience...but, it can also be overwhelming at times. Things are different than what you're used to, you may be constantly translating a foreign language, and trying to build new social circles can be taxing. But, just remember: like most things in life, learning to adapt to living in a foreign country comes in emotional (and sometimes physical) stages. Below are five of the most commonly experienced "phases" which people pass through during their time abroad.

1. Excitement

We all know what excitement feels like, when your heart races and you feel like leaping, skipping, shouting, or singing for joy. It is the feeling you get when you talk about going abroad, when you realize that you are able to follow your dreams. It is the feeling that inspires you to travel in the first place. Excitement is what courses through your veins while you pack your suitcase, when your plane takes off, when you land and leave the airport for the first time. It is also the honeymoon stage...the stage where you look around and everything is amazing, the sights are beautiful, the people are cool, and the food is extraordinary. Excitement will get you over your jet lag and motivate you to make this the Best. Trip. Ever!

2. Disorientation

Disorientation can also be called the "lost and confused" stage. This happens after you've had a good night's sleep and have calmed down from your initial traveling excitement. You may realize you don't know anyone yet, you may not know where anything is, and you may not even know where you are. That's okay. Lost and confused isn't always a bad thing. If anything, this phase allows you to create a "nest" for yourself--in your dorm, hotel room, apartment, etc.--to come back to as an anchor. Personalize your space with pictures, colors, or whatever helps you feel at ease. Then, go out and explore the lay of the land; it's the best way to stop feeling so...well...lost.

3. Frustration/Cultural Confrontation

This phase is more widely known as "culture shock". Culture shock sets in a few days to a week after your initial excitement and disorientation pass. You may suddenly find that you don't want to go exploring, or that things may not seem as wonderful as you initially thought. Having a new language (or, if you're in a country that speaks your native language, accents or phrases), new community, different amenities and food tastes surrounding you may seem incredibly overwhelming. Everything is different, and going through daily life is less of a novelty and more of a frustration; your jet lag might be replaced with headaches. Just remember: it's okay to feel frustrated or upset; all of this is totally normal and part of the process of traveling abroad. It's also okay to take time to yourself. Maybe take a walk, or redecorate your room. Establish a routine that becomes more familiar and comfortable to you with each passing day, and push your comfort zone bit by bit. Before you know it, your excitement about being in a new place will come back, and you'll forget all about those feelings of frustration.

4. Homesickness

Right after culture shock comes homesickness. You may find yourself missing your parents a little extra, wanting your mom's cooking above all else, and desperately trying not to cry away the hole you feel in your heart whenever someone asks you about home or if you see a picture that reminds you of friends, family, or pets. I know, it's definitely not a fantastic feeling. But, it does get better. Set up a Skype date with your parents. FaceTime your best friend. Bring a stuffed animal, pillow, or blanket with you that carries a reminder of your favorite home-related memories. Watch your favorite movie or listen to your favorite song...and remember. You'll be thinking of your environment as your home away from home soon.

5. Acceptance/Serenity

Finally, all those feelings of melancholy are gone! Now, it may not happen overnight after you've been feeling overwhelmed and homesick, but it will happen. Everything around you will become inviting and familiar. You'll have friends, a nest, and a routine.You may even feel giddy and excited again. But, most importantly, you will feel like you are independent and integrated within the culture you are living in. You will finally feel home...and you may never want to leave.

Now, I know not everyone is the same. These stages will vary in intensity depending on the person, the place, and the time away from home. Some people may experience one phase for longer, others may not experience certain phases at all. This article is only meant to be an overview of what to expect, so you know what you are feeling and experiencing is normal.

In the meantime, go out and enjoy your adventure! Love the journey you're taking.Your life will never be the same when you return.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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