Daily Life Tips

The Importance of Practicing Self-Care While Studying Abroad

by on 2016-08-03 14:59:21

There’s a very extroverted, go-better narrative in travel and international education, and why shouldn’t there be? Studying abroad takes guts, and it requires you to jump into the unknown. With all of the travel apps, Facebook groups, and travel guides out there, it has become easier than ever to know what to expect from traveling before you even go abroad. 

Practicing self-care is super important, but, like mental illness, it is often stigmatized. Often times we don’t know if we “deserve” to seek counseling or to take self-care days because we don’t want to be seen as weak. Self-care is even more important for students and travelers who suffer from anxiety disorders or depression. Here are some self-care tips to help you cope with the inevitable ups and downs of studying abroad: 


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 1.Join a group. 

Whether you volunteer at an English center or join a Tuesday night salsa class, joining a group is a great way to find consistency in your not-so-consistent life. After the honeymoon phase of studying abroad ends and things stop seeming so amazingly perfect, frustrations will start to set in. You’ll wonder why it’s so hard to understand what the corner store owner is asking you as you’re buying gum. It’s normal to ask yourself things like “What am I even doing here?”, “Why is it so hard to find stable Wifi?”, “Why can’t anyone understand me on the phone?”, or “Why do people stare at me as if I have two heads?”

You will feel out of place. It’s natural. The good news is that you do have some control over this feeling by being proactive and joining a daily or weekly group.You can start taking free sign language classes on Saturdays, during which you don’t feel like a fish out of water and you can learn a language in a quiet environment. It’s also a great chance to make friends. 

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2.Be creative. 

Studying abroad exposes you to a new cultures and languages, pushing you to use parts of your brain that may be lying dormant until you walk out of the airport and hear everyone gabbing in Chinese. Now that you have to be creative in navigating life abroad and living, speaking, and listening differently, why not use creativity to your advantage? Being creative is all about expressing yourself, and you don’t have to be the next Jimi Hendrix to do it. It could be as simple as sitting in a park and sketching a fountain, or as meditative as making a collage with photos of your friends back home. 

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3.Exercise or not.

After a long-distance breakup, you was so depressed that you didn’t want to exercise. You usually go crazy without a daily workout.You had to be okay with not being okay for a while, so you need to find something interesting outdoor to do. Seeing the other people around you having fun and shaking it off would make you feel better, if only for an hour a day. 

The fact that you felt emotionally better after a workout highlights an undeniable body-mind connection. you’ve been hard on yourself for not wanting to exercise, but then you remind yourself that you need to listen to the body. When you don’t feel like exercising, you’ll just stretch for a bit to get the blood flowing, then you can do a healthy alternative like reading. 

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4.Plan a trip to look forward to.

You can always have a trip planned, whether it’s a day hike with your best friend or a trip to places of interest. After you’ve had a bad day, it’s comforting to know that you have a fun trip planned to put things into perspective. It’s something to look forward to that keeps you motivated and moving. The excitement leading up to the trip is akin to the adrenaline rush you feel during your travels. Study abroad programs often plan group excursions, that range from museum visits to hiking trips, so mark these in your calendar! 

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5.Write hand-written letters.

“I’d rather get an email than a beautiful postcard from Rio de Janeiro” said no one, ever. When was the last time you received a handwritten letter? It’s an old fashioned gesture that never goes out of style. Your loved ones will be thrilled not only to hear from you, but to receive a tangible memento of your study abroad destination. Giving feels just as good as receiving, and after they get your postcards, chances are they’ll be excited to send you a care package full of chocolate bars and other treats you didn’t know would be so hard to find.


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6.Use your program’s resources.

Some programs have counselors who can help you navigate culture shock and keep you mentally healthy. Your program’s staff members are there to support you, whether you just need to talk through a bad day or you need help dealing with culture shock. The hardest step is reaching out for help, but once you do, you won’t regret it. Don’t treat your resources like an emergency room because it’s never a good idea to wait until the last minute to get help.

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Everyone’s version of self-care is different, whether it’s staying in bed watching House of Cards or spending the day at the beach. Taking care of your mental health is one of the most crucial yet underrated strategies to ensure you have the best study abroad journey. Other tactics also require you to master to lead a significant and extraordinary overseas life. We cannot be our best selves without taking care of ourselves.


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