What were your motivations to study to abroad? Was it to travel? Was it for personal growth? Was it a combination of those benefits you would gain?
That was the case for me. I always knew I wanted to study abroad before I even got into college. I wanted to have a better understanding of the world beyond the boundaries of the US. I knew my experience while abroad would change me for the better. I have become more independent, assertive and self-aware due to my experiences and the people I have met while abroad. However, that was not my only motivation.
Last year, I endured some of the hardest obstacles of my life. My brother and my uncle passed away. I found out my dad had cancer. I was struggling to make the deep connections I wanted to as a freshman in college. So, I decided to study abroad this semester with the subconscious goal of running away from my problems as well as wanting to accomplish this goal that I had been planning since high school. I thought, “I’ll be too distracted and too far for any real problems to reach me.”
Boy, was I wrong. These problems still found their way to me. Not even a month into my program a friend passed away and it seemed like so many things were falling apart back home. The only difference was I was dealing with everything while trying to enjoy my time abroad. So how did I deal?
I didn’t deal with any of it alone. They tell you to limit your contact with home, but in dealing with grief while abroad you need your support network. I had many conversations where I would cry with my boyfriend over the loss of our friend. It made me feel less alone, because I didn’t want to be a burden to my new friends that I met here. I just knew they were trying to enjoy their time abroad, and sharing my pain would dampen their mood. However that thinking is wrong, it was necessary for me to confide in my friends here. Eventually, when I did tell people what was going on, it felt like a weight I was dragging around was getting a little lighter. The connections you make with people while abroad are real. They care about you just as much as they care about their experience because you are apart of that experience.
While abroad everything is so fast paced that you do not have much time to process this grief. However, I found it important to find an outlet where I could let go. Whether it was hanging out with the friends I made here, or it was taking a self-care night. That was how I stayed sane. I relied on whatever support I could get, whether virtual or physical. I had to realize I was far from alone, even if I was continents away from my usual support network. Grief comes in many forms, and everyone deals with it differently. You just have to give yourself the time and space to work through it no matter where you are.