How I Navigated a Family Emergency

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Arts + Sciences

Authored By:

Caroline R.

This month has been quite challenging, and it's only halfway through. One morning, I got a phone call from my family that said something had happened to one of my parent's jobs. I also found out during that phone call that my younger sister would have to have another procedure (she has Ebstein's anomaly, which is a defect of the tricuspid valve in the heart). I was also approaching midterms, so I was under much pressure and stress. All things that are tricky things to navigate when you are over 7,000 miles away in a different country, continent, and time zone. 

Travel guilt is real, and I felt guilty for being abroad and having all these new experiences while my family was back home. I fell into a sad depression and began fixating on my family and being home, which wasn't healthy for my family or me. 

Though I still have emotions to confront, and I'm not all the way healed, I do have some advice in case you find yourself struggling while abroad:

  • Make sure you tell someone on the CIEE staff. They are incredibly helpful and listen to everything you say and how you feel.
  • Tell your family how you are feeling. I put on a front that I was okay for about a week, and when I reached my breaking point, it was a whole mess of crying and emotions. Your family wants to know how you are doing so they can be there for you however they can.
    • When they tell you they're okay and well, believe them. Do not spiral and make things up in your head. If they say they are doing okay, they are!
  • Make sure to tell your new friends that something is going on. You don't need to tell them every detail; they should know if you are struggling. Tell them what you need from them. Your family will most likely take comfort in knowing that people around you know what is going on and can help.
    • For me, it was to continue asking me to go out and do things with them and distract me. 
  • Make sure to take care of yourself. Whether that is buying food or something that makes you happy, taking a nap, a hot shower, drawing, walking, writing, blogging, or watching something, do it. Do not hesitate to take time for yourself but make sure not to make it a habit to dwell in emotions!


Again, healing is very important, especially when you are abroad and living alone in a new space. However, healing cannot be done without confronting your emotions and feelings. These pieces of advice are just from my own experience, so if they don't work for you, that's okay! Do what you need to do for yourself. You are capable of so much more than you think you are!


Talk Soon, 

Caroline :)