Studying abroad is a beautiful experience. It's one of a kind, really. What other time in your life are you going to be able to pick up and move to another country, knowing there are hundreds of students doing the exact same thing, waiting to meet you? Unfortunately, as the saying goes, "all good things must come to an end." And so, when all is said and done -- you've said goodbye to your loved ones and you are on your plane back home, the grieving process begins. Here are the five stages of grief -- study abroad style.
In the final weeks, you somehow convince yourself that you aren't leaving, that you can't be. You tell yourself that you're going to be returning to the country that has come to be your home in just a few months. You're just going home for a vacation, to get a little rest, see your friends and family, and then you can return to this beautiful life you've created. That's how it should be, how it has to be.
You begin feeling angry, mad at yourself and everyone else for getting so attached. You've only known these people for four or five months - a year maybe - yet somehow it feels like you're leaving the loves of your life behind. You no longer feel like you can enjoy the present moment, because every waking minute you have is spent cursing the ever-waning hourglass on your time.
You start searching skyscanner, kayak and Google flights - anything that can get you safely (and cheaply) back to your study abroad life, and your friends. You try and find the cheapest city in Europe to fly to (after you find the flight, you'll convince all your friends to meet you there). You begin constantly looking for odd jobs, just to make some quick cash and save up for another taste of adventure.
Of course you are happy to see your friends and family back home, but the moment you step off the plane you feel something shift. You left a piece of your heart in that city -with all your friends that you made there. You torture yourself by looking through old pictures, wishing you could go back to the time and place where you felt so infinite and alive. You spend a lot of time video chatting and Facebook messaging with friends across the world, but the time difference somehow feels like an eternity.
Finally, you learn to accept that what's done is done, and the past can't be brought back. You had an amazing, indescribable experience with your new life long friends, and it had to end. So you cherish what you have now - memories to last a lifetime and friends to last even longer. You hang up pictures and remember the good times, and you are thankful for the experience. You grew as a person and you learned a lot about life. It doesn't get much better than that. And besides, you can still make everyone listen to all your crazy stories over and over again, right?
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn't make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let's talk about living with loss. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.