Mental Health While Studying Abroad

Just like taking care of your mental health is so important here, it is equally important when abroad and most likely different. Before leaving for your program you will want to ensure you have enough medication or connect with a counselor while you are there. It’s important to transfer the self-care habits you have here to your host country or find new ways to take care of yourself like going for a run, watching Netflix, journaling, and connecting with friends and family in the US and abroad.

Culture shock is very real and it affects everyone differently, some just feel it upon arrival, while it will last weeks for others. It is important to embrace and enjoy that you are in a new culture, so get out, walk around, try the new foods, leave your headphones and listen to the language. This can be difficult, especially with jet lag, but try to make that effort. Other days you’ll want to stay in bed, miss home, and watch your favorite shows because you haven’t heard an American accent. Try to not isolate yourself, whether it is a call home or making friends with people in your program. Sometimes you’ll have to turn down invitations to take care of yourself but do your best to take up as many as possible during your first few weeks.

You might be overwhelmed with how much you are experiencing and might need to confront your mental health for the first time which can be challenging to do in a new country and it is hard to acknowledge these emotions. Ask for help from your friends, your host university, and if you are lost ask NC State to help you navigate this. It’s normal to go into a study abroad program with expectations and goals but you might find that it isn’t living up to these. Your classes might be difficult, you might not be picking up the language as you thought, you might not be making friends as you did at State and so much more. Be sure to recognize the little victories and celebrate them, you are making a lot of progress that you don’t always notice.

While abroad, you can probably legally drink, and this might be your first time. It is part of many cultures, but drinking culture is very different outside the US. Most parts of the world drink to enjoy the drink and people’s company. When going to vineyards, breweries, and out remember you are not at a tailgate on Trinity Rd. Know your limits. If you are partying every time you drink, you’re gonna have a lot of anxiety that is going to interfere with your overall experience, and you might not realize it at the time. Make good choices and be mature about it. Remember you are representing yourself, NC State, and the US.

Studying abroad introduces you to a lot of new experiences and norms and they can be hard to navigate. Having good habits before departure will help you handle the culture shock and make your adjustment easier. Be sure to adapt your self-care to your new circumstances and find habits that will work for you asking for help along the way.