Reality Check: Grief While Abroad – API Blog

Today’s post comes to us from API alumni & University of Alaska Southeast student Kelsey Walsh. She studied abroad with us in San José, Costa Rica & dealt with a very tough loss during the semester. We’re proud of her for sharing her story with us today!

Costa Rica

Going abroad to San Jose this last semester was one of the most positive decisions that I have made for myself throughout college.

I met spectacular people who taught me many important life lessons. I saw so many things that opened my eyes to the way life is lived in a completely different world. However, this will not be one of those posts that tries to convince you to go abroad, because I have a feeling if you are here, reading this, you are looking forward to one day experiencing a new culture in a new country. Instead I am here to give some advice, a reality check about life abroad.

Two months or so into my study abroad in San Jose I was starting to get comfortable in my routines.

I began to appreciate the life I was living while in the city. I was going to school to learn a completely new language. Honestly, I can say that I do not regret anything about going abroad, but there were things that were more challenging than I had thought. This is because despite the fact that students who study abroad leave their lives behind in the United States, life continually changes.

So, when I received the news that my grandmother was going to die while I was gone I honestly couldn’t think of what I was going to do.

I could go home, but that wouldn’t guarantee I could come back considering that I would need to fly to Alaska. I also knew it would be very expensive to get home and back, and that I would miss too much class if I left.

In the end, I decided to stay. There was not anything that I could do from home. My aunts, uncles and mom were constantly present at the hospital since our family is huge and I am sure a little more overwhelming than most. I waited in Costa Rica for a period of two weeks while my family dealt with things from Alaska and kept me in the loop before she passed. It was one of the hardest things I have done in my life not to drop everything and run home. However, I came to Costa Rica to learn and be in school. Not knowing if I could ever return meant that leaving wasn’t a real option.

To put things into perspective, I knew that my grandma was getting older and that this was a possibility before I left for Costa Rica. Because of that, I visited her during school breaks before I left. It is one of those taboo things that we do not speak of: the idea of people getting left behind and not seeing them when we return.

I do not say things like this to dissuade you from traveling and having one of the most unique life experiences ever, I know I did.

I am telling you this so that you know before you leave to be thankful for what you have because things will change when you leave, and not always in a positive way. However, this is life and as long as you are prepared for the bumps thrown your way you can accomplish anything.

I write this so that you know there may be some rocks in the road of your experience abroad, but I promise that you can handle so much more than you think. Going abroad creates a strength in people that they did not know they had. You owe it to yourself to try something new in the pages of your life story. Just know you are strong and can handle everything and take just one moment before you leave your current life, wherever you may be in it, and acknowledge the pleasures that you have, whether it be the people, your pets, or your things. Then all you have to do is leap.

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