How do you even begin to say good-bye after three months abroad? In this week’s blog post, Anya offers some tips to make wrapping up a semester abroad a little easier.
One of the hardest parts of a study abroad experience is when the days start to feel like they are slipping by, and then suddenly all you have left is a few weeks of hectic finals and a plane ride home. Saying goodbye is always hard, and I am already not looking forward to the moment I have to leave Toulouse. Like graduating high school and college, it's hard for me to face that a city, host family, and cohort of students I have called home for three months is something I have to leave behind with the potential to never see again. Of course I can visit my host family and Toulouse, and even friends from my program, but this is the last time they will be in the same place at the same time. The worst part is that with finals coming at the end of the semester and everyone hastily packing up to go home, saying a proper goodbye can be really difficult. Here on some tips I have gathered based on my last time abroad that I found really useful when ending my semester, and I hope to use them again to make my last days here just a little more bearable.
Make a to-do list!
This was by far the most helpful and simplest thing for me to do when finishing up my semester in Scotland at the University of St Andrews. Creating a to-do list of things I did not want to miss out on before I left (I used Google Keep on my phone) reduced some of my stress that I would forget to do something before it was too late. I have a list for Toulouse as well that I actually started at the beginning of the semester and have slowly been adding to and checking things off from. What I plan to do here during week before I leave (and what I did in Scotland) is to not only put things on the list that I have not done yet, but also the things I do all the time, such as studying at my favorite cafe. This way I can I do them one last time before I leave. There was a sandwich place in St Andrews I absolutely loved, and in that last week I made sure to go and savor it all a bit extra.
Plan a last time to see everyone
Something to add to the to-do list as well is hanging out with people. Every week in Scotland I would wake up early and run into the ocean with some friends, so I made sure to put that on my list and plan for one last dip. Having a list of people to see also got rid of the stress that I would forget to say goodbye to someone amongst all the craziness of move-out. It was nice (and of course sad) to hang out with my friends knowing it was the last time for a while because I could make sure to say a proper goodbye in person. Organizing a bigger event, such as going out for dinner, can ensure that you get to see everyone at once!
And make some future plans
Saying goodbye was also a lot easier for me when I was able to make concrete plans to see my friends at least one time in the future, whether in person or on a videocall. That way the goodbye felt a lot more like a see-you-later than an uncertain “goodbye forever” type of moment.
Get ahead on schoolwork
Something that is easier said than done, but can really help with the goodbye process, is being on top studying for final exams. I am in the process of working on final projects and I know the more I do now, the more time I will have those last few days to take a break or join any spontaneous last-week activities that end up happening without feeling too stressed. I cannot forget that I will have to pack as well!
Don’t leave (at least not right away)
A lot of countries require that you to book return flights before even entering the country, so if it possible try to book a couple days after the program end date (take into account housing during this time). Last semester when I wrapped up my term, I made sure to take advantage of the week-long move out period we were given after exams ended. I booked my flight for a week after finals ended so I would have time to hang out with friends and explore without the looming stress of exams. This was also essential because only a few weeks earlier had Scotland started to ease out of their lockdown, and I wanted time to go out to restaurants, shop at boutiques, and visit nearby towns. Basically, the month of May was my first time actually being able to explore St Andrews and Scotland. However, staying after the term is not always possible or might seem a bit pointless if everyone else is leaving before you, so it definitely depends on specific program circumstances. While in Scotland I naturally had an week extra of housing offered in the dorms, in France I want to travel around and will not need housing in Toulouse. I actually initially set my flight home to be the day my housing with my host family ended, but luckily I was able to push that back once I found friends to travel with and places to see. Now I am staying a couple extra days and traveling with friends to Lyon! It will be nice to travel without absolutely no academic obligations.
In the end the best thing you can do is try to take it all in while its happening. That, hug everyone goodbye, and look forward to next semester back at Tulane!