When you first arrive in a new city, nothing makes sense.
Everything’s unknown, virgin.
After you’ve lived here, walked these streets, you’ll know them inside out.
You’ll know these people.
Once you’ve lived here, crossed this street 10, 20, 1000 times…
It’ll belong to you because you’ve lived there.
That was about to happen to me, but I didn’t know it yet.
–L’Auberge Espagnole (2002)
I recently graduated from a very international graduate program, making me the proud owner of 3 study abroad experiences – for that reason I feel like it’s time for me to share & simplify the whole process down to 8 stages!
Until about 1 day before you move, you are super excited about the amazing experience you’re about to have! You are going to make so many fabulous friends! You are going to travel so much! You are going to see things and experience things that you never have before!
You can’t stop your mind from planning and you constantly daydream about your exciting new life!
Until you get settled into your new place, you start experiencing anxiety and panic.. why are you getting into this? You’re not going to be able to make any friends! You are going to spend so much money! You’re leaving behind so many people.. There’s so many things you wanted to do here!
Too bad, you’re already in the airport! Now run to the gate and remember, you won’t regret this.
From the first few weeks, you feel in love with everything! There’s so many awesome parties! You are making so many fabulous friends! You are traveling so much! You are seeing things and experiencing things that you never have before!
You don’t take it personally if the German bouncer doesn’t let you in the club because you are speaking English, it’s pretty funny … And those homeless people in San Francisco are actually super friendly!
You don’t even feel any cultural shock, because the people there are pretty much the same as the people from where you come from. Well, there are some differences.. but they are adorable, right?
After some time, you start getting tired of being lost all the time.. you’ve missed so many events back home, and the parties have started to become less and less frequent or appealing.
You start to feel the cultural shock, people there have really weird habits! You start taking it personally when the German bouncers don’t let you in the club because you are speaking English, that’s so rude… And those homeless drug addicts in San Francisco really creep you out!
Gradually, you start knowing your way around the city! You’ve learned enough of the language that you can actually find what you were looking for when you go to the supermarket :)
You are a regular in a couple of bars and you have a steady group of friends: you are pretty much a local in this city – congratulations!
Too bad it’s nearing the end, isn’t it?
When you are a few weeks before the end, you start experiencing the 5 stages of grief… you are so angry at yourself that you didn’t go to that party or that you missed that road trip!
Maybe you can prolong your stay? It actually makes sense to extend this for another semester, right? Maybe you can find an internship there.
But everyone seems to be leaving the city.. will it be the same? Maybe you can just go home, there’s places to go, people to see! You could almost feel some excitement while packing – if you weren’t so sad to be leaving.
You bet your friends back home don’t even remember you! You’re leaving behind so many people.. There’s so many things you wanted to do here!
7. Identity Crisis
After you are back at your home country, you feel like a foreigner all over again. You are missing so many events back at your study abroad city, and there’s nothing interesting to do here.
You didn’t realize that the time didn’t stop while you were gone, and everyone and everything changed – you are basically an insignificant alien.
You can’t stop your mind from remembering and you constantly daydream about your amazing old life!
8. Moving On
After some time, you will adapt to your own changes and to the changes around you. Luckily, there’s social networks and skype, so you can always chat with your friends! You plan reunions with the people you met abroad and there are so many new countries you can go where you’ll have friends a place to stay :)
Now you have two options:
1. You can avoid all the negative parts and just settle down.
2. You can enjoy all the positive parts all over again by starting a new international experience!!
Good Luck <3