It feels like just yesterday that I was counting down the days until I was finally released from the two-week mandatory government quarantine in Korea, anxious and excited to start my semester abroad at Ewha Womans University. In a blink of an eye, four months have passed and I now have to prepare for my return home. And while I’m excited to see my loved ones again, my feelings surrounding leaving this country that I’ve grown to love are complicated.
First and foremost, I’ve found myself feeling guilty for feeling tired and passing up certain events to catch up on rest. During a normal semester on Main Campus, this is a totally normal part of adjusting to the cold weather and looking forward to winter break— but because studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity, it’s natural to feel guilty about the potential of not making the most of the experience. Even spending just one night in or having a bad mental health day seemed to set the tone for the rest of my week. What if I had gone out? What sights am I missing out on seeing?
It took me a few weeks to snap out of this mentality, and I’m definitely still working on it, but it’s important to remember that it’s okay to have low energy days and let yourself chill for a while, even in the midst of study abroad. After all, you’re juggling multiple classes, assignments, and responsibilities just like any other semester— plus the added stress of navigating daily life in an unfamiliar country.
I also made the decision to come home a week earlier than I originally planned, which compared to my plans at the beginning of the semester, even surprised me. After months away from my family, spending the holidays alone seemed less and less appealing as each week passed by. Luckily, I was able to change my ticket in time to make it home before Christmas, which has helped my mental health a lot, knowing that I can look forward to my family’s usual holiday festivities.
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my sometimes frustratingly complicated feelings about my last few weeks abroad and my conclusion has given me some peace. As many times as I’ve revisited this throughout my time in Korea, it really hit me recently: just because I’m abroad doesn’t mean I’m going to magically be a different person. As much as I’d like to imagine it, this wonderful experience that I’ve enjoyed so much isn’t a movie, and I can’t expect it to be. Instead, I need to buckle down and address the mental and emotional needs I always have while struggling with school work and social life each semester— and I shouldn’t be disappointed with myself for acknowledging this truth.
Ultimately, I’m so thrilled to be here and I’m so thrilled to go home. And that’s completely okay.