How Are ‘U Doing? (And no, not in the “pick-up” line sense)

As puts it, going abroad can cause an emotional rollercoaster.

One day you’re up and excited about all the new sights, sounds and smells. The next day, you might be depressed and not want to go to class or go out for food as you miss the familiar things back home. Remember – this is all natural and should be expected.

I knew I wanted to study abroad in college. I began working on that plan back in high school. I also knew what I wanted from a program – relishing in the challenge of something different yet familiar enough to dissuade any major homesickness that often comes with completely different cultures and languages. I had worked in a study abroad office for five semesters prior to my experience going abroad. I read all the cultural and tour guide books I could on South Africa. I felt very prepared and was mentally ready to make the transition to go abroad.

And then, two weeks before I left, my grandfather unexpectedly died. Instead of hanging with friends, I spent time grieving with family and packing prior to my mid-January departure. I left on my designated planes and went along with “the plan.” The first week though, I found myself longing for home. I missed my family, my grandfather, was upset that I hadn’t spent time with friends before being away for five and a half months. I was confused because I felt like I was not prepared to be abroad – like it wasn’t the right time for me.

However, after feeling “off” for a week, I realized the main issue was that I was still grieving for my grandfather. The grief caused the temporary homesickness. I wanted to go home – but not to how home and family were now that he had passed away. I wanted to return to how life was before he died – which I also realized was impossible. I knew that I was too late for my home university’s spring semester round of courses so if I returned home, it would have been a “wasted” semester. So instead, I held my head high, and became determined to work through the grief of losing a loved one while abroad as best as I could – knowing that my grandfather, who was a world traveler himself, would have wanted that.

After the semester passed, and since its conclusion two years later, going abroad to South Africa – and staying the whole time there – were the best choices I have ever made. I grew a lot as a person – not only becoming more independent but also learning more about other cultures and befriending people who will remain long in my memories and photos.

While one is abroad, it is important to keep the unexpected in mind – and that one can never be fully prepared for everything life throws your way. However, it is also important to know that you will feel all sorts of emotions as you are far from home. Those five and a half months might be the longest amount of time you have gone without seeing family. It might be the first time you feel truly “unsupervised.” It could also be the first time you truly feel “at home” – as one fellow study abroad student to South Africa said.

If you are interested in “gauging” yourself or reading about some of the possible feelings and thoughts you might have while abroad, I strongly encourage you check out The Study Abroad Rollercoaster of Emotions: the Ups and Downs of Studying Abroad by Rachael Kroot at: