The Four Stages of (Study Abroad) Grief

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Aliya Sayani
September 6, 2022
The Four Stages of (Study Abroad) Grief

I’m not gonna lie y’all. The first couple days have been rough. Flights were delayed. Baggage was lost. Hospitals were visited.

During orientation, we learned about the 4 stages of Study Abroad Grief.

The honeymoon stage begins the moment you touch down. Everything is shiny and new. You’re in awe of the food, the beach, your cute, little home. You feel untouchable, you feel like you’re assimilating. Whole time you’re really just living in a bubble of blissful ignorance.

Next comes the anxiety. With a lovely sprinkle of irritation and hostility. This is when things get fun. Maybe a French person’s attitude rubbed you the wrong way (they’re waaaayyy different here. I could definitely teach them a thing or two about Southern Hospitality). Maybe somebody refused to speak English with you at the grocery store. Maybe you got a little lost on the way to class. Whatever it is, your heart is thumpin’ and the worry is slowly setting in. Lucky for the French, I feel like this quite often so they don’t have to worry about me too much. I’ll be just fine.

The next stage is getting over that hump of anxiety. Gradual adjustment. This is where the homesickness starts to wear off. You start to realize that French people aren’t actually rude, they’re just…like that. The grocery trips get easier. Whatever it is, you’re adjusting and feeling good. This stage is supposed to be full of relief and a gentle kind of happiness. This is the stage where things get better.

Finally, we get to experience full adaptation and multiculturalism. Basically, things are totally okay! You didn’t melt away into a puddle of anxiety, you don’t cry about missing your mom at night anymore, and you’re actually making friends!! The final stage of study abroad grief.

I was very, very lucky to experience the second stage, The Big Anxiety, the moment I touched down in the great city of Nice. Things really did not go well and it was so frustrating that this was my first impression of and experience in the city. It was disheartening. But a very wise person told me that it actually wasn’t gonna be a bad semester or even a bad week. It was just a bad couple of days. Granted when I was heaving and sobbing that really did not mean absolutely anything to me, but now that I’m out of that terrible place, the words feel true.

Two days after I got here, I started to get sleep, I started to smile and enjoy the food. I started talking to my classmates and going out with them to the beach rather than sitting in my room alone, moping. Things started feeling good. And they’ve continued to feel good. Nine days in, and I have yet to feel even remotely close to the way I felt the first couple days I got here.

Not that I have any business giving y’all advice but if I did, I would say this: stick it out. Stick out the absolutely terrible way you might be feeling right now. Try to talk to your friends back home or the friends by your side. Reach out to faculty at your school back home or the people running your program. Get all the bad feelings out before they impact your whole time abroad cause that’s not fair to you. We deserve an UNFORGETTABLE study abroad experience, remember? And I promise you, we’re still gonna get it.

Here’s to one of the worst first days I’ve ever had, the four stages of Study Abroad Grief, and things finally starting to not suck.

Talk to you soon. Love you. Bye.

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Aliya Sayani

Hi everyone! Studying abroad in Nice specifically has been a dream of mine since I was a junior in high school.

It's very important to me to write from the perspective of a first gen and low income student. I want to provide y'all with some sense of comfort and togetherness during what might be a super exciting but potentially scary or overwhelming process. I just want my experiences and advice to mean something to students like me.

I hope y'all enjoy the things I share!


2022 Fall
Home University:
Trinity University
Bedford, TX
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