How To Look After Your Mental Health When Studying Abroad
Studying abroad can be one of the best experiences of your life, it’s a time where you experience new cultures, gain international perspectives, and create lifelong memories.
However, adjusting to a new environment, being surrounded by people you don’t know, dealing with homesickness and culture shock, as well as managing academic pressures can be challenging.
Although, if you are feeling this way, there are some things you can do to look after your mental health and make the most of studying abroad. With the right self-care and support, you’ll have an experience of a lifetime!
To help you, we’ve put together this guide on tips for looking after your mental wellbeing whilst on a study abroad trip.
1. Make New Friendships
When it comes to looking after your mental health when studying abroad, making new friends and building a support network is crucial.
You should try to seek out like-minded individuals at your university, by joining clubs or societies that interest you, and participate in events on campus.
You could also join online groups and use social media to meet new people in your university city or town.
Making new friendships and having a support system of other students can give you a sense of belonging and ease any feelings of loneliness or homesickness.
Remember, there will be other study abroad students in the same boat as you, so don’t be afraid to reach out and speak to new people, even if it is daunting at first!
2. Keep In Touch With Friends & Family
Whilst you should embrace your new surroundings, it’s important to stay connected with your loved one back home, so make sure to regularly communicate with your friends and family.
If you’re feeling stressed out, upset or just missing home, communicating to your nearest and dearest through video calls, messages, or even letters can help you feel connected and provide a sense of comfort.
By sharing your experiences and challenges with the people in your life, you can help to process your emotions too!
3. Take Care Of Your Physical Health
We all know how our mental health is closely linked to our physical well-being, so it’s important to prioritise your physical health whilst embarking on a study abroad programme.
You should make sure to eat well, stay hydrated, get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night and ensure that you’re getting regular exercise.
It’s up to you what activities you choose to do to stay active, whether it’s joining a gym, practising yoga, jogging, dancing or just exploring your new city or town on foot!
By maintaining a balanced lifestyle you’ll boost your energy levels and overall mood, so don’t underestimate how important taking care of your physical health is.
It may be tempting to lie in bed and isolate yourself when you’re struggling, but by getting up and moving you’ll reap the benefits.
4. Remember There Will Be Highs And Lows
Studying abroad can be full of excitement, but it’s essential that you manage your expectations and remember that there will be highs and lows throughout your experience.
Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to have a perfect time, or feel that you always have to be happy, or even constantly busy.
Allow yourself to embrace both the positive and challenging moments of studying somewhere new, and be kind to yourself throughout.
It’s normal to go through good and bad periods, and there will be other people in the same position as you!
Social media can paint the picture that everyone’s happy and having an amazing time all of the time, but remember, it’s just a highlight reel.
You may see people having the time of their life and wonder why that isn’t you, but chances are, they go through the same highs and lows as you.
5. Practice Self-care
We cannot stress how important self-care is, no matter where you are in the world.
A great way to practise self-care is by engaging in activities that bring you happiness, whether it’s reading a book, listening to music, practising mindfulness, or pursuing a hobby.
Another way to stay relaxed and recharged when studying in a different country is through journaling, as you can reflect on your thoughts, feelings, adventures, and challenges.
Not only is keeping a journal a positive habit which is good for your mental wellbeing, but you can also look back on it in years to come.
By spending time everyday doing activities that you enjoy, it will help to reduce stress, and ensure that you maintain a positive mindset.
6. Explore Your New Home
No matter if you’re heading on a study abroad experience for a semester or for the whole academic year, for the duration of your programme, your university city or town will become your new home.
We’d suggest taking some time to head out from your student accommodation to explore and familiarise yourself with your new surroundings, by engaging in local culture, visiting local landmarks, trying new cuisines, and experiencing new activities.
Taking advantage of all the unique opportunities available to you can do wonders for your mental health – it’s a once in a life experience after all!
7. Establish A Routine
We understand that moving to a new country, adapting to a different culture, and dealing with academic pressures can be overwhelming, but establishing a routine can provide a sense of stability and can be really beneficial for your mental health.
By creating a routine and planning out time for studying, attending classes and engaging in extracurricular activities, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and you’ll boost your productivity!
To help you out, we’d suggest using a planner or a calendar app to create a weekly schedule, and make sure to be realistic so that you have enough time to yourself and to recharge your batteries.
8. Make Use Of Available Support
To maintain your wellbeing and make the most of your study abroad experience, make use of available support when you need it.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may still face challenges that impact upon your mental health.
Make sure not to hesitate to reach out for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re dealing with financial difficulties or any other struggle whilst studying abroad.
Every university will have mental health support available for students, so take advantage of these resources.
We’d also suggest talking with a professional for guidance and coping strategies if your mental health has taken a toll.
Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity to explore new cultures, meet new people, and gain valuable experiences, but taking care of your mental health is just as important as your academic efforts and anything else.
We hope you take on board our tips for looking after your mental health when studying abroad, and we wish you all the best on your travel adventure!
Have you got any tips for how you make your mental health a priority whilst studying abroad? Let us know @universalstudentliving.