The Plunge

Ella Rivera headshot
Ella Rivera
October 5, 2023

It has now been three to four weeks since moving here, a phase often referred to as the 'plunge'—a phase in the emotional trajectory of studying abroad. While IES Abroad provides parents with an informative chart detailing the various emotional stages of studying abroad, I was unprepared for said stage. To future students who may be unfamiliar with this transitional period, let's jump into it.

This is when life here truly starts to feel real, classes are in full swing, and homework assignments are underway. Most have found their social circles, and life appears to be settling into a rhythm. However, appearances can be deceiving; the internal experience may not quite align with the external. This creates a dissonance in your reality, the clashing of what you feel and what your surroundings tell you. I should note that this is my personal journey, and it may not resonate universally. The 'plunge' is a unique experience for each individual.

The plunge is usually when homesickness looms largest. I haven’t felt homesick, but I have felt lonely. It's the solitude of not entirely being oneself—a transitional phase where acquaintances are made, and friendships are formed, but the truest self remains shielded. Which is normal, the feeling of being comfortable and allowing others to see all sides of you takes time. That point is essential to remember that this feeling won’t last forever. At the one-month mark, the desire to break through this barrier intensifies. I want to show my complete self, not just a fraction of who I am. But I’m learning that the more vulnerable and open you are, the more people relate to it, then that opens an avenue to deeper connections. 

Being an extrovert, I am passionate, and expressive, and need meaningful interactions. Superficial conversations, though necessary at times, don't satisfy my hunger for genuine connection. This experience has been particularly challenging for me, as I've always had a secure and immediate support system during my college years through friends and family who have known me my whole life. If you have family or friends come and visit you, I would recommend this time more than any because this will be when you crave that familiarity the most. For those like myself not as fortunate, it’s all right, this feeling will pass if you open yourself up to the friends that you’ve made. Take the initiative to break through that initial barrier, and witness the depth of connection it can foster. I recently had a heart-to-heart with a newfound friend here, and she told me that her friend, studying abroad elsewhere, was experiencing similar feelings to mine. She, too, was experiencing our feelings but fortunately, she had her family visit which she said provided some comfort. Just the act of expressing these feelings to her truly alleviated some of the pressure and offered me some relief. Later that day, as I shared dinner with my friends, a breakthrough moment ensued. I believe this was a direct result of my earlier openness, a trend that continued as I shared not only with one friend but also with my larger friend group.

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Ella Rivera headshot

Ella Rivera

I love to learn about history and other cultures which is why I chose to study in Europe. Traveling is one of my favorite hobbies.I am an avid coffee drinker my go to drink is a coldbrew lemonade which is a specialty from the coffeeshop I work at.

2023 Fall
Home University:
Penn State University
Global Studies
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