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Preflight Turbulence: Feelings before Departure

January 27, 2016
by CEA CAPA Content Creator
In the weeks leading up to my flight, I've definitely had a lot of mixed feelings coming out of seemingly nowhere. There are days when I'm so excited to leave that people seem annoyed that I won't stop talking about it. Then there are days when I'm sitting with my family and realize that when I leave it's going to be a while before I can do so again. The worst days make me want to cancel my flight and just say something went wrong. But the thing that has been getting me through it is knowing that these extreme ups and downs before I leave are completely normal. It's part of a pattern of feelings that almost all study abroad students experience, and while it may not stop the feelings from coming, knowing about has helped me prepare for how to deal with the feelings when they hit and know what I might expect next.
 Looking at where I'm going calms jitters.

It's called the Cultural Adjustment Curve, although curve is a very vague way to name something that spikes and dips so much. The first stage, the pre-departure jitters, is what I'm right in the middle of right now. It's the days, weeks, or months before departure where I can feel the excitement and fear of leaving fluctuating so much. When I get there, I'll probably jump right into the honeymoon phase. This is where it's so exciting and new to see everything that there really isn't any time to be scared or worried. It's all new and amazing.

Unfortunately next comes the cultural shock phase. I’m sure I’m going to experience frustration, or homesickness, or worry at some point. Going to a new place and not expecting to feel any of those simply isn’t realistic. But it’s only for a short time, and I know I’ll get through it because the next stage is adaptation. I’ll learn how to get around the city, how to talk to people, and where to get a good cup of coffee. This will last a while, until just before I have to leave again. Then I could expect the pre-return ups and downs. These are kind of like the pre-departure stage, except instead of leaving home, I’m coming home. But when I get on that plane to come back I know I’ll be excited to see my family again.

 My passports are a sure inspiration for my travel bug.

The last stage, that many people don’t expect, is the return phase. It brings with it something like a reverse homesickness for the host country. I’ve experienced this before after traveling, and it gets to the point where I just want to go back for a little bit longer, even just a day. But, even knowing I might feel all of these crazy up and down feelings, I know that if I decide to just cancel my flight and go back to my normal life that I’m going to regret it for a long, long time.

So as I get ready to leave, pick out my suitcase and my ticket, I know that all of this preflight turbulence is just temporary. I can’t wait to go out and see a new corner of the world. Every time I feel a bump or a negative thought, I know it’s just the preflight worries popping up to say hello.

Teghan Oswald is the Spring 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is currently a junior at Central Michigan University.

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