The following blog entry is a bit more serious than usual. If you came to this blog to read about how beautiful the French countryside is, what the Microbiology of Wine and Cheese course is like, and how life changing studying abroad can be, I suggest you read pretty much any of my other blogs. However, I feel that what I am about to say is important.
There’s a lot of unspoken pressure about enjoying every moment of a study abroad experience. Although some of the best moments of my life have been through studying abroad- presenting research in Brazil, adapting the Mediterranean lifestyle in Greece, and now studying microbiology in France- it is unrealistic to expect that every single second of the experience is going to be positive. This pressure stems from a few different aspects: the high cost of attendance, the selectivity of being accepted into a program, the high expectations, the rarity of taking part in study abroad, and the brevity of the experience. However, even amongst the pressures to enjoy one’s study abroad experience, I am realizing it may be healthier to confront some negative feelings, rather than force myself to be happy because I “have to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience!”.
The topic of this blog entry stems from the fact that I received news today that one of my extended family members passed away suddenly. Although I was not close enough to him to fly home immediately for the funeral arrangements, I was close enough with him and his family to feel very weird about not being there in person to give my support and say my goodbyes. When the funeral takes place this weekend, I know that I will feel alienated and disloyal as my entire family gathers to pay their respects. At the next family event, I’ll expect to see him there, only to remember his passing and feel a lack of closure.
Tonight, as I write this blog post, I find it challenging to hold back tears as I share a small bedroom with three other girls I had only met earlier this week. I imagine it may be common during study abroad experiences to have this sensation of being surrounded by people but feel alone. The time change and spotty Wi-Fi situation does not help; although it is nice to disconnect when traveling, I’m frustrated by the inability to vent to someone I’m more comfortable around.
I guess my purpose in conveying these negative feelings is to assure future study abroad students that it is okay not to enjoy every single moment of one’s study abroad experience. Even when studying abroad, we still have both positive and negative emotions that should not have to be suppressed for the sake of having a good time in a new place. Mental health is still a concern, not matter which country you’re visiting for however long. Thanks for listening- writing about this made me feel slightly better!