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The 5 stages of living abroad

stages of living abroad

It’s not exactly the Kübler-Ross model, but there’s definitely phases to living abroad. Learn more about what to expect during your international adventure and take a look at these 5 stages of living abroad. Individual results may vary.


1. Culture Shock

The initial arrival and subsequent weeks to your country abroad will be full of surprises and excitement. Getting on your feet will take longer for some interns more than others. Those who are accustomed to living in quieter, rural areas may have a harder time adjusting to the noise and bustle of a city and the public transportation on top of all the cultural differences of a foreign country. Usually, the stage of culture shock is also accompanied by a sense of wonder and amazement. New tastes, new smells, new sights, new people, new languages… It’s all so and foreign and different! The culture shock stage is an exhilarating but sometimes overwhelming phase of living abroad.


2. Homesickness

Most interns abroad don’t spend too much time bummed out about how much they miss home, but it still touches just about everyone at some point. In more extreme cases, homesickness can cause so much grief that it will keep you inside being a homebody instead of going out to explore. To get through this, talk to your friends and family at home to make yourself feel better but also remind yourself that this experience and time to explore abroad is short. You’ll be back home in no time and regret it if you spent your whole time sad about missing home. It is often one of the most bittersweet stages of living abroad. Even if you’re feeling a bit down, try to force yourself out to socialize and meet new people from different parts of the world. Focus on the new relationships you’re forming rather than the ones you left behind.


stages of living abroad

“The loneliness of the expatriate is of an odd and complicated kind, for it is inseparable from the feeling of being free, of having escaped.” — Adam Gopnik (Paris to the Moon)


3. Adjustment to new cultural norms

After spending more time working and living in a foreign country, you’ll start to pick up on all sorts of cultural differences and adjust your behavior, acting a bit like a cultural chameleon. Learning all these subtle differences will help you appreciate and understand the culture even more, improving cross-cultural communication skills and your ability to adjust to new environments.


4. Delight in the adventure

There’s no stopping you now. You’ve spent some time soaking in the culture and now you’re in full abroad adventure mode and there’s no looking back. Now that you’re so adjusted to this new culture, you’re able to have even more fun exploring and testing your limits. You’ll enjoy the opportunities at your work more than before now that you’re used to the workload and office rhythm as well.


5 stages of living abroad


5. Denial that you’re going home

No! It can’t be! Already? Time really flies when you’re having adventures abroad. It can be hard to reckon with, but you do have a return ticket and people waiting to see your smiling face once again. Though leaving is always a bit difficult, don’t forget you can always come back – for vacation, for a job. And thanks to social media, you’ll be able to keep in touch with your new friends, and meet them again as your lives and travels bring you different places around the world.



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Photo 1. by Leo Foureaux on Unsplash

Photo 2. by Joe Penna, CC-by-2.0

Photo 3. by Felix Rostig on Unsplash

Photos and blog by The Intern Group

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!