How to Cope with Leaving

Morgan Brown
January 3, 2020

Every morning, a countdown app on my phone alerts me as to how many days I have until I leave for Dublin. Woohoo! Only 100 more days! 75. 50... At the time of writing this post, I’m down to one week. Every morning when I see this notification, I’m not sure how to feel. I feel a pulling in my stomach as if I’m nervous, but also a giddy feeling as if I’m excited.

Sometimes this tension irritates me: what right to I have to be nervous about an experience that will most likely be life-changing? How can be I nervous when I know that I am so blessed to have this opportunity? Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to root out the source of my nerves. I know that my program will be amazing. I’ll be immersing myself in writing, something I’m deeply passionate about. I’ll be able to travel freely, both in Ireland and throughout Europe. I’ll form bonds with new friends in my program and meet the local people of Dublin. So what is there to be nervous about? I’ve narrowed it down. The extremes of my nerves and excitement come from the same source: leaving.

I’m generally prepared to move to Dublin. I consider myself organized and diligent, which solves most practical problems. All my forms were submitted months in advance. I expect no problems with packing. I’ve read all my predeparture information and could practically recite it. Physically, I’m 100% prepared for this trip. Emotionally, I’m not prepared at all.

Leaving for Dublin fills me with a bout of anxiety that I’ve always been hesitant to admit. One of my biggest insecurities about studying abroad has always been that, to be quite blunt, I’m a bit of a baby. At my school in Holland, MI, though I love it more than anything, I struggle with homesickness. Though the college is a mere three-hour drive from my house, I have frequent bouts where I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss my hometown, so much so that it at times affected how quickly I adjusted. As I made the decision to study abroad, I asked myself, If I had such a hard time adjusting to Hope, how much harder will it be to adjust to life in another country?

In my determination to study abroad, I decided I wasn’t going to let homesickness be an obstacle. To emotionally prepare for my departure, I’ve adopted three tactics that I hope to pass on for other students considering going abroad:

Accept that homesickness is inevitable. The best way to cope with emotional change is to expect it. I have no doubts that homesickness will come. It is practically inevitable when adjusting to a new city, new surroundings, and a new culture. But knowing this reminds me that every period of darkness is followed by a period of light. Yes, homesickness will come, but just as it did at my college, it will fade away.

Embrace the little things. The way I made Hope College feel like my home was by adopting little things into my routine. I found spots on campus to relax. I found my favorite places to walk, to study, to eat, to share coffee with friends. I let myself open up to new friends, embraced the late nights we’d stay up laughing, and realized that for every high we had together, we could still come to one another in the lows.

Open up to others. Going abroad, every person in every program has one thing in common: they will all, at some point, feel some sort of longing for home, whether it’s fleeting or prolonged. But we will also be together on the adventure of a lifetime, and that will bring us closer than I may be able to foresee. Making new friends, sharing the things we miss about home, and finding new routines and favorite spots together will help every participant to create a niche in their country of choice.

The most important thing to remember is that studying abroad will be the experience of a lifetime. Yes, leaving home, family, friends, and comfort will be difficult. It is daunting, but there are tactics we can adopt to combat nerves. Anywhere we go may not immediately feel like a new home; it’s up to us to create one.

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