The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition

Itchy Feet to Dragging Feet

This is a preview to the chapter Itchy Feet to Dragging Feet from the book The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition by Tina L. Quick.
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Marie, the daughter of an American mother and a British father who spent all of her childhood in Switzerland, is attending a small liberal arts college on the east coast of the U.S. She asked me to read journal entries she had written during her semester abroad to China. She needed to talk with someone who could help her make sense of the emotions she experienced during the different phases of her travels. Through the sensitive, insightful and descriptive entries in those crinkled and folded pages I was able to follow her journey through each of the three most difficult stages of transition – leaving, transition and entering. Whether you are leaving for a foreign culture or returning to a familiar one, you cannot avoid experiencing the transition cycle. She described her feelings so clearly, I requested her permission to reprint sections of her journals to help you, the reader, as you experience or anticipate your own transition.

Conflicted Emotions

Typically, the leaving stage of the transition cycle begins the moment you are aware of an upcoming change. Notice, Marie is profoundly sad two days before leaving her beloved China. For graduating high school students like you, the thought of leaving home for college or university has most likely been in the back of your minds ever since you started making those campus visits the summer before your last year of secondary school.


No doubt the sense of anticipation and excitement you experienced while doing all those college tours was infiltrated with a bit of denial. “No, this isn’t really going to happen to me. Everybody else goes off to college, but I really don’t need to think about it seriously yet.” And yet you went through the motions of filling out those applications, writing essays and waiting anxiously for the daily mail to arrive to see if you had been accepted by the school of your choice.

Itchy Feet

Do you remember right about mid-year of your last year of secondary school when you were practically screaming, “I am so sick of school. I can’t wait to get out of here!” But once those college/university acceptances started rolling in, a good dose of reality came with them. You practically did a 180 degree turnaround – “I really am going…but I’m not ready! I’m too young!”

Sound familiar? The academic lethargy and mini-rebellion that popped up from seemingly nowhere around the winter holidays is suddenly upstaged by the urge to act like a clingy two-year-old just about spring break time. Not only that but parents will attest to the emotional swings of the “I want out now” and the “I’m not ready to leave” extremes on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour, or even minute-to-minute basis.

Dragging Feet

There is no more denying it. You must select which college or university you would really prefer to attend for the next three to four years of your life. Once that commitment is made you are firmly planted in the leaving stage.

Separating and Distancing

The leaving stage is characterized by a loosening of emotional ties and distancing from family, friends and relationships. This behavior is quite unconscious and is a form of self-protection – from your own feelings. I watched as each of my three daughters went about this typical withdrawing in their own style. Janneke, my normally jovial, sweet, loving, eldest daughter became so irritable and downright annoying that I was convinced she was demon-possessed. She must have, somewhere back in the caverns of her mind, thought that by acting out, her family would be relieved to see her finally leave home to go off to college, thereby, making her departure easier on us.

My middle daughter, Katrina, handled it quite differently. She spent the entire summer before college hanging out incessantly with her friends. She didn’t loosen any ties with them, only her family. In fact, if anything, she and her secondary school buddies became even tighter over the summer than they were in the two years they spent together before graduation. She was pleasant enough when she was around, but that wasn’t very often. Any time we would ask her for a little family-together time, she would have to inform us that well-laid plans with friends could not be changed.

Kacie, my youngest daughter became a recluse at home. She came home from school or sports practice and went directly to her room to study. Her only appearance to spend time with family was mealtime.

Every time I slipped upstairs to check on her, I found her reading or doing homework. She had always been a good student, but she had also enjoyed sitting at the kitchen table to do homework so we could occasionally chat as I fixed dinner.

When I pointed out her long absences, she sighed and replied with a hint of sadness, “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be distant.” Then I realized this was her way of disengaging and separating from us, her parents.

Surrendering Roles and Responsibilities

You may be experiencing a great deal of loss as your secondary school experience draws to a close. My daughter Kacie had a huge hole in her life when the basketball season ended. Basketball had been her major love for six years so when she relinquished her role and responsibilities as co-captain of the team, she felt lost. As a last-year student, she was not eligible for post-season play, so she struggled to find ways to fill the void in her life and to get into shape for college try-outs in the fall. Whatever roles and responsibilities you have had will end soon and you may wander the halls feeling like a “has-been.”

Loss of Status and Identity

The inevitable transition can no longer be denied as you find yourself coming to the end of your student council position, drama production duties, or vocal or band responsibilities and making way for underclassmen to take over. You may feel some distancing or exclusion as others move into the roles you are vacating. You may realize you aren’t needed anymore as younger students take over the responsibilities you used to have. You are, in effect, giving up your status, position, and even your identity. You were known in this place, valued for what you brought to the school community. Now you are heading off where no one knows anything about you.

This might be a good thing for some of you graduates. Perhaps you did not land so well in this place or never really gelled with the community like you did in your last host country. Maybe you were unfairly labeled or chose the wrong people to hang out with and acquired an undesirable reputation. This is a chance to start over with a clean slate. Since first-year college students don’t know anything about each other, they are all on equal footing.
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What else is in the chapter 'Itchy Feet to Dragging Feet'?

Conflicted Emotions

You might find that graduation is a very conflicted time for you. While ceremonies, celebrations, and festivities are taking place and everything is pointing to the promise of the future, ...

Unresolved Grief – Leave and Grieve Well

If sorting out their personal identity is the greatest challenge TCKs face (see Chapter One), the second is unresolved grief, although most of the time, they may not even realize ...

Grieve Well

We, as humans, need to grieve our losses. We can get stuck emotionally until we recognize our loss and grieve for it. Grief validates all the good in our lives. ...

Lack of Time to Grieve

Unfortunately TCKs have little or no time to grieve. Today’s travel is usually done by airplanes rather than boats as in days past. So, a few hours to a day ...

Lack of Comfort

Without realizing it, parents often do not allow themselves or their children to grieve. They tend to focus on the cognitive reasons for the move, rather than on the emotions ...

Delayed Grief

Grieving openly is good grief, but when grief is pushed under the carpet or placed somewhere else in our minds to come back to later and coming back to it ...

No Funerals

Life is filled with loss and resulting grief. It can be as serious as a loss of health, loss of a job, a death or a divorce. Or it could ...

Confronting Grief

Give yourself permission to grieve. Spend some time with the losses and disappointments you are facing. Put a name on what they are, e.g. “I was known as the best ...

Build Your RAFT

Dave Pollock used to say that “you need to leave well in order to enter well.” In other words, how you leave one place has a profound effect on how ...


Do not leave a place with undone issues or unfinished business. There are many ways to resolve issues and resentments and reconcile your relationships. Whether it is the good, old-fashioned ...


Just as giving and receiving forgiveness liberates and heals you, so does affirming people that have been important to you. Telling friends, teachers, neighbors, pastors, coaches, mentors and others how ...


Many cultures have wisely built traditions around saying proper farewells to help people move forward on their journeys. One of the most effective I have ever experienced incorporated reconciliation, affirmation ...

Farewells To People

High school friends will be scattering across the globe to start university. This is a particularly tearful time for TCKs. ...

Farewells To Places, Pets, and Possessions

It is important to have farewells with our pets, especially if they must remain behind and the family is moving on. Be sure to visit all your favorite haunts, particularly ...

Think Destination

The last log that forms your RAFT is to think about your destination. ...

Research Your New Environs

▪ Find out as much as you can about the college/university you will be attending, the town or city it is in, the state and even the country before you ...

What Will You Need?

▪ Start thinking about what you will need in your new surroundings. There will be many things you never had to consider when going back on home leave for summer ...

Other Practicalities

▪ How will you be getting to your campus? ...


"This book is uniquely and sensitively tailored to the needs of students who are either 'returning' to their home countries..."

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