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The emotional rollercoaster of moving abroad: How to deal with feelings of anxiety when you leave your home country for the first time

Drum roll for the eye roll. I know the phrase “emotional rollercoaster” is a cliché, and it probably reads like dramatic clickbait, but I feel like it is the perfect term to explain all the emotions you have when you are living alone in a foreign country for the first time.

This is how it can usually go:

Happiness and enthusiasm on the day that you finally leave are the first symptoms. You got accepted for the opportunity abroad you have been dreaming about! You are ecstatic and can hardly believe it, but then you start thinking about what your experience abroad will actually look like. Will you figure everything out? Will you make any friends? What about your friends and family at home? And on and on the questions go. These types of thoughts are much stronger than when you are merely going on vacation or a cross-country road trip. However, such strong feelings when one leaves to study abroad for the first time are completely normal. Everybody has those doubting moments from time to time. But, what is important is that you keep going!


The anxiety attack or as I call it “thought barrage!”

Even though you are insanely happy to have the opportunity and experience of international travel, it is also quite normal that you will feel anxious about it. You are probably on your own for the first time. If a problem arises, YOU have to fix it. You are going to have to reach out to new people! You have to figure out completely new routines. Maybe you don’t understand the language well. What kind of grades are these? What does my boss mean when he tells me to do this or that? How do I open these crazy modern electronic doors? Or, even worse, you start thinking about your significant other who is now hundreds or thousands of miles away… Ok, I need to stop, because I am getting anxious just writing this.


Let’s try this again!

During your experience abroad, you will learn to be independent and develop solutions to problems on your own, you will meet new friends and interesting people, and you will get to know about new cultures and new ways of thinking, including professional and business ones. It sounds better already, right?

Going to a new country alone is never easy. Some days will be the happiest of your life, and others will have you face new obstacles and they will be hard. However, when you cross an obstacle, it won’t be an obstacle anymore. Your opportunity abroad will leave you feeling stronger, more confident, and definitely richer with experiences and friends.

When those harder days come, remember all of your accomplishments that got you to where you are, the happiness and excitement of being selected for this opportunity, and the accomplishment that you will have once you triumph over the challenge! Here are a couple of more things you can do when the going gets tough.


Call your friends and family

When you get tired of everything that is new, or you miss your family and friends, give them a call and talk about it. It will definitely help!


Reach out to people on the same adventure as you!

I made amazing friends during my master’s studies in Sweden, and to this day I cherish the conversations we had about our experiences abroad! It is amazing how people can be supportive and give you great advice if you honestly tell them how you feel.


Sports or mindfulness!

Doing sports regularly is one of the best cures for when your mind starts racing and those exams and other tasks start piling up! Mindfulness is also becoming increasingly popular as a way to have much needed moments to oneself. It is a meditation technique that some people find helpful to relax and regain focus! There are many resources about it out there, as well as guided meditations on YouTube, so give it a go. Many universities and business places also organize group meditation sessions which you might find beneficial.


Health and counseling centers!

Every university usually has some form of counseling center, and they are there for a reason! If you feel like you need some additional help, don’t hesitate to utilize them.

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