The Five Stages of Pre-departure

As they say in any psychology class, there are 5 stages in the pre-departure process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They describe the mindset of every departing traveler, or at least myself, perfectly.

Denial: not believing this incredible opportunity is happening to you. Anger: your entire wardrobe won’t fit into your suitcase. Bargaining:  desperately trying to find enough Frequent Flyer points to upgrade your seat. Depression: having to say goodbye to your cat for an extended period of time. Finally, acceptance: you won’t be sitting next to movie star Chris Pine for the entirety of the plane ride and that is something I will just have to live with. (Okay, that last one is just me.)

Besides these, there are so many emotions racing through my head at the prospect of setting out and traveling the world. Sometimes it’s hard to make sense of exactly what I am feeling; both good and bad feelings come with leaving home to frequent and new explorers alike; perhaps this flux of emotions is not so unique to my situation.

From the very first moment you hear about studying abroad, you are told that it will change you forever. You will see and try new things, and expand your horizons in ways you never thought possible before. By experiencing a different culture, you not only learn about this new foreign identity but also about aspects of your own culture that you couldn’t see before. It is a way to situate ourselves on this big blue planet of ours, to know that we are not alone.

While I have traveled abroad before, I have never lived outside of the Midwest, let alone the United States. And I am terrified. Of course, I am thrilled to be a part of this journey to better understand a culture unlike my own. But at the same time, I am afraid of the uncertainty that comes with getting out of my comfort zone and free falling into the unknown. Sure, it would be easier to stay at home, but if you truly want to grow you must face your fears. Despite my worries, I know that this experience will shape me into a better human being and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Making sense of these emotions before going somewhere new is something everyone deals with in their own way. So yes, maybe the 5 stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance do apply to those setting off on a world-wide adventure. In a way, you are grieving the old life you left behind for the bright, new one ahead.