The Five Stages of Studying Abroad | Top Universities

The Five Stages of Studying Abroad

By Guest Writer

Updated April 11, 2016 Updated April 11, 2016

Guest Post: Gracy Rigano

You may have heard of the Five Stages of Grief (refresh your memory with this educational clip from The Simpsons), but how about the Five Stages of Studying Abroad?

Italian student Gracy Rigano has spent a year studying abroad in Spain and six months working abroad in the UK, so she’s been through all these stages and back again! Here she outlines five emotional phases you can expect to encounter when studying abroad…

Phase 1: Excitement and optimism

It’s natural, either before leaving or after you’ve arrived, to go through a stage of feeling really excited, and enthusiastic for all the new and exciting things to come.

This can be a great feeling, especially if you can turn all that positive energy into a spirit of adventure and fearlessness when encountering new situations and challenges.

Phase 2: Disorientation

Especially if you don’t know anyone in your new location, it’s common to experience a feeling of being ‘lost’ and disorientated. I’ve found that it’s helpful to focus on establishing a stable base for yourself, so you have a place where you can feel at home and secure – a sort of ‘nest’.

Making a project out of transforming your student room will also give you a practical focus, hopefully meaning less time for moping around feeling sorry for yourself! Remember, help will always be there if you need it; universities have lots of support services just waiting for you.

Phase 3: Loneliness

Even the most open and friendly of people are likely to find integrating into a completely new country and culture a bit of a challenge. This can be especially difficult if you’re also not a native speaker of the local language.

To get past this phase, you need to basically push on through it – challenge yourself to keep trying, and don’t let your anxieties hold you back. This will almost certainly mean there are times when you’re outside your own comfort zone, but ultimately that’s a good thing!

Phase 4: Homesickness

Pretty much everyone experiences homesickness at some point while studying or working abroad, so just be prepared for this and know that it’s normal and will pass.

You could also view homesickness as part of the personal development you undergo while away from home. It’s said that the only way to really appreciate one place is to go and live somewhere else – and spending time abroad is a great way of finding out more about yourself and what you really want from life.

Phase 5: Acceptance and serenity

After all the ups and downs, excitement, challenges and personal reflection of the initial settling-in period, you can look forward to a calmer, more relaxed time.

This doesn’t mean there won’t still be excitement and challenges, of course! But, having accepted both the positives and negatives of your situation, and reached a point where you’re more confident in your surroundings, you should be ready to simply enjoy your time studying abroad and really make the most of it.

Of course, everyone’s experience is different, so this model should be seen as flexible – you won’t necessarily go through each stage in exactly this order! But hopefully knowing that your experience is ‘normal’ and that each stage will pass should help – especially when you encounter some of the more challenging phases.

This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in April 2016

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