Navigating Goodbyes: 7 Tips for International Students

“Never say goodbye,” said J.M. Barrie in his book Peter Pan, “because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”

But the truth is, we’ll all have to say goodbye during our lives. Some of you might be getting ready to say goodbye right now. If you’ve finished your studies, you might be preparing to go back to your home country or move to a different city. And for those of you who haven’t reached this point yet, one day you will, and leaving can be hard!

So here are seven tips on how to say goodbye well, inspired by the experience and advice of other international students!

1. Practice gratitude 🥰

Even if you’re busy as you get ready to move, try to take time to reflect on your experience in the US. What are you thankful for? What people played a big role in your life while you were here? What gifts did you receive from them (whether physical or emotional/spiritual)? What did you learn, and how did you grow?

2. Express that gratitude to others 😘

Once you know what (and who) you’re grateful for, let those people know! Some of them may not even realize how important they were to you, and expressing appreciation to these people can also help you feel better about leaving. 

For Stefania from Italy, “the hardest part was not just saying goodbye or I will miss you, but doing it in a way that demonstrated to them how important they were to me.”

She ended up printing photos and writing messages on the back to give away to her friends. There are lots of small ways you can turn your gratitude into meaningful blessings for the people you’re leaving.

3. Spend time saying goodbye 👋

This may seem obvious, but it’s also natural to be afraid of the negative emotions that come up when you’re getting ready to leave. Don’t let these feelings prevent you from taking the time you need to say goodbye to what you’re leaving behind. Have farewell parties with your friends. Take photos at your favorite places in the city. Eat the food you most enjoyed while you were here. Revisit old memories and make a few new ones if you can!

4. Make a plan to stay connected 🌐

With the advancements we have in travel and technology today, a goodbye doesn’t mean you’ll never see or talk to these people again. Keep your friends’ contact information or social media so you can stay in touch with them. You might even plan to come back for a visit in the future or invite them to visit you.

When Rafaella was preparing to go back to Brazil, she and her husband “felt like we were saying goodbye, but the friendship we made was kind of real, and we still had an open door to come back with those we had left behind.”

Think of your goodbye as an open door to future friendship rather than a closed one. Because contrary to what Peter Pan thinks, going away does NOT always mean forgetting!

5. Some fun travel can ease the transition ✈️

Many international students plan a trip with friends or family right before they go home or relocate. Whether you take a cross-country tour of the U.S. or spend a week in a city you haven’t visited yet, a trip can be something you look forward to while you’re packing and getting ready to leave. Traveling with people you love also gives you the chance to both process your emotions and make new fun memories.

6. If going home, be prepared for things to have changed 🔄️

Ilaria was excited to go back to Italy, but she wasn’t expecting how hard it would be to adjust to being home.

“During those six months [in the US], I changed, and the people in Italy changed,” she says. “So the hardest part was to change my habits again and understand myself in a familiar context but in a different way.”

So even if you’re looking forward to going home, prepare yourself to go through an adjustment period that might be confusing and uncomfortable. And during that time, try to show grace to yourself and your family members. Change takes some getting used to, but it is not a bad thing!

7. Wherever you go next, share what you received 🤗

As Jieun from South Korea reflected on her time in the U.S., she noticed that “I got much love from others, I learned a lot from others. I grew a lot because of others’ mercy.”

As a result, she wants to pass on what she has received, and encourages others to also “give what you’ve learned to others.”

One of the biggest blessings we can experience is loving others the way we have been loved. So if you were impacted by kindness and hospitality from the people you are saying goodbye to, how can you share those same things with the people you will meet next? As you move on to the next chapter of life, how can you be a part of changing someone else’s life for good?


We hope these seven tips help you as you prepare to say your goodbyes.

Saying them is an inevitable part of life,  and although challenging, remember they also provide an opportunity to reflect on your experiences, express gratitude, and maintain connections with those who have been important to you. Embrace the transition with a positive outlook, whether it involves planning a trip to ease the shift, preparing for changes upon returning home, or sharing the kindness and lessons you’ve received with others. As you move forward, may the love and growth you’ve experienced guide you in making a positive impact on those you meet next.

You got this! 🧡

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