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Grieving the loss of a parent from abroad

26/09/2019

This might very well be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do: write about my father dying while I was here working on my second quartile finals last year.

The separation of international students from their families, friends, and cultures is a reoccurring topic amongst not only the students themselves, but professionals as well. Dealing with the distance alone is a very hard and daunting task. Sadly, some of us also have to worry about the wellbeing of loved ones who have fallen ill during our months spent away. The physical distance and lack of honest communication renders the situation unbearable as guilt, helplessness, and desperation take over.

I arrived here after what I thought was the most challenging time of my life. I juggled being on a tennis team, doing the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, and endlessly involving myself in extra-curricular activities. I stretched myself far and thin, nothing was going to stop me from receiving this education that I worked so hard for, that I gave up so much for.

Come first round of examinations and I’m a complete mess. From dealing with a whole new educational system to getting accustomed to AH’s opening/closing times; I was struggling. I was lonely, dealing with academic performance issues for the first time in my life, and I was done with all the rain already.

It seemed like my family got lost in my priorities even though I always put them first. Before I knew it, my father was suffering from terminal health issues. In the span of just two months, I went from jokingly using animated filters while chatting with him to booking the first flight back home to attend his funeral. The pace of everything seemed to have gotten out of hand in the blink of an eye.

My family was concealing the severity of the situation so that I would focus on my school work and examinations. Saying that I felt betrayed by everyone and more shockingly, my own self does not cut it.

So, was it worth it? I like to keep reminding myself that things happen the way they do for grander reasons. Do they?

By writing this short and surface-level piece on the turning point in my life I hope to shed some light on the kind of experience some internationals go through alone.

The current university therapist is booked for months to come. The professors treated my urgency to leave like it was some ‘excuse’ to skip class. And when I returned, my withdrawal from university was overlooked and dismissed.

The university needs to start considering those situations in terms of educational aspects like examination exemptions and special considerations. I was neither supported nor met with any level of understanding/compassion. I truly had to muster all my strength and patience to survive the year.

All I hope for is that others who go through what I did are welcomed with more humanity.

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