When people tell stories about their experience studying abroad, they speak volumes of the new friends they’ve made, language/s they’ve learned and places they’ve seen. While this paints a very colorful picture for a lot of us, what we often forget is that even the best experiences come with all-time lows.Yep, even the international student experience.
As fun as it is overall, there are a few more things you just have to experience before you get to the fun! For all those wondering, here are the 4 stages every international student goes through on their first year studying abroad.
Stage 1: Excitement
When you’re counting down the days ‘til your international student adventure begins, all you think about are the amazing memories you are about to make! You’ve most likely already packed a week before you even have to. Slowly loading up on the things you’ll miss. Catching up with all the friends you won’t see for a while. Endlessly googling and listing down all the things you want to do as soon as you get there.
In short: You. Cannot. Wait!
I mean, who can blame you for being so stoked about globe trotting? Not us!
Stage 2: Disorientation
As fun as the preparation has been, landing and settling in is a whole new ball game!
The first few days seem so warm and welcoming, thanks to the welcome programs of your new school. But when it starts to sink in, you realize that this is it. You’re here for the long haul. There is no turning back.
The realization of the decision you’ve made all of a sudden brings up anxiety and panic. The culture is so different from what you’re used to. The weather is way too cold than the Philippine sunshine. And when you’re a woman, the patriarchy can feel more real than it’s ever been and you have nobody to run to for help.
“Even as a licensed dentist, I was constantly undermined for being a woman and a Filipina.”
Disclaimer: Don’t worry it gets better- keep reading!
Stage 3: Identity Crisis
When the disorientation starts kicking in, parts of your new city soon loses its charm. The narrow streets you once found cute start to feel isolating. The language you don’t speak sounds funny and unwelcoming. You get tired of having to ask for help about everything. How do I say this? Where can I buy this? How to go there? Where is the restroom??
e v e r y t h i n g.
Homesickness starts creeping in and you find yourself questioning why you’re even there in the first place. You feel like you’re being scrutinized on a daily basis and nothing you do is ever enough. You feel like the odd man out – at least for a while.
Stage 4: Acceptance
Then finally, days come and go and you start getting used to the little nuances that used to intrigue you. You start making friends that make your new city feel more like home. You start finding places you’re comfortable in – maybe it’s a cafe, maybe it’s a library, or maybe it’s an open park. You find yourself creating new habits.
You soon come to terms with the fact that you’re different and that’s okay. That’s what being an international student is all about. Learning new things, understanding new cultures, and finding peace in new places.
You soon learn to adapt similar beliefs that you are comfortable with. You learn to be at peace even with things you don’t agree with. You learn to rise above situations that bring you down.
Days feel warmer, streets feel safer, life seems kinder.
You learn to be at home with where you are.
All new adventures come with a little bit of resistance. It’s a matter of how much you’re willing to endure to get to where you want to be. Like anything, the world keeps spinning and bad days, too, come to an end. Don’t let the fear of being alone or starting all over stop you from chasing your dreams. Plus! You never know the person you get to be unless you give it a try!