How to Adjust to the Adjustment Period While Studying Abroad

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By studying abroad, you’re choosing to pick up your things and leave behind all that’s familiar: your family, your friends, your home, and everything in between. While studying abroad is a wonderful experience, leaving so much of your life behind can lead to a challenging adjustment period once you're finally overseas, and we want to make sure you have the resouces to navigate it.

To help you prepare for this, we gathered seven posts from our student Correspondents who blogged about their experiences of adjusting to life abroad. Read on for their key insights:

Honest feelings when studying abroad
1. How you actually feel is more important than how you "should" feel.

“The worst part wasn't that I was feeling bad, but that I felt guilty for feeling bad. I thought that I wasn't doing what I 'should,' which is to say, seeing every museum and traveling to as many cities as possible and 'living my best life.' I was worried that I was somehow disappointing the people I had left back home. I would try to tell myself the old refrain of 'You're not allowed to be sad, you're in [Fill in Your City Here]!' But in all honesty, that is not fair. Don't tell yourself that, and don't let others tell you that either.” - Tessa Copeland (IES Abroad Paris - French Studies | University of Tulsa)

Different study abroad adjustments
2. Everyone works through the adjustment period differently.

“I don’t think any number of PowerPoints will be able to teach you the 'proper' way to take on culture shock until you experience it first-hand and learn how to cope with the uniqueness that is your way of thinking and processing.” - Mollie Abts (IES Abroad Multi-Location: Santiago & Buenos Aires | University of Minnesota)

Study abroad culture shock
3. The adjustment period is temporary.

“Every day will be easier. This stage is much faster than you think. Home will still be there in a few months.” - Claire Pollard (IES Abroad Paris - Business & International Affairs | Occidental College)

Study abroad emotional roller coaster
4. The challenges ultimately enhance the experience.

“Since I have arrived, Santiago has evoked many emotions—joy, awe, excitement, curiosity—but all of them positive.” - Thea Lance (IES Abroad Santiago - Health Studies | Williams College)

Study abroad kindness
5. It's important to be kind to yourself.

“Here’s the truth about studying abroad: there are moments when you mess up. There are moments when the milk is expired, and your British friends have to settle for herbal tea. More and more, I’ve come to learn that the times that I make mistakes are the times that I learn the most about myself.” - Allison Bruns (IES Abroad London - Study London | Indiana University)

Familiar and unfamiliar
6. There are ways to visit home without physically doing so.

“My best piece of advice: begin to search for familiarity in the things that are unfamiliar.” - Johnna Hayward (IES Abroad Barcelona—Full-Time Internship | Penn State University)

Study abroad challenges
7. You'll grow in ways that go beyond study abroad.

“These bumps in the road that everyone’s bound to face abroad have equipped me to handle more and more inevitable bumps that I will face.” - Julia Plant (IES Abroad Barcelona - Liberal Arts & Business | Miami University)

Read more stories and advice on cultural immersion from IES Abroad Correspondents, and be sure to start your study abroad journey by checking out our program finder.

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