5 Tips for Study Abroad Well-being

Written for & published by Abroad101.com (Oct 2012) Wellness Wednesday column

Link to original article: http://blog.studyabroad101.com/2012/10/wellness-wednesday-5-tips-for-study-abroad-well-being/

By Melissa Doman, M.A.


Welcome fellow wanderlust enthusiasts!

Not only are you making an awesome decision by researching your study abroad options through Abroad101.com, but your curiosity also brought you to my expat emotional health forum. Kudos to you on preparing yourself in the most important ways for your upcoming study abroad experience!

For those of you who are going overseas for the first time – congratulations! There’s a big world out there and you’re about to dive into it. For those of you that this isn’t your first rodeo, welcome back to the globetrotting club – it’s good to see you again.

Studying abroad will not only be one of the best adventures of your life, but it may be one of the most important personal development experiences that you will have as a young adult. Amazing excursions and experiencing delectable foreign cuisine aside, you’re about to embark on an amazing cultural immersion experience. It'll not only give you a broader multicultural global perspective, but also change your sense of self for the better.

By this time, I’m sure your family and friends have given you tips of preparation by overloading you with such phrases as, “don’t forget to pack this!” or“will they have a CVS there?” or the famous “ honey you can never have enough socks!”  What I’m here to do is give you tips on how to manage something we often forget to check in with during major times of transition: our emotions and well-being. While you’re packing up your stuff and preparing for your journey, here's a few tips to keep your lovely college-educated brains in check:

1.                    Set up a support system. Talk to your study abroad advisor, college counselor, or family members about your concerns. Whether it’s friends at home you can Skype with, or finding people in your program that are headed to the same destination, remember you’re not in this alone.

2.                    Do your research! Find out about cultural nuances and customs about your destination country. We often handle change better when we have briefed ourselves on what to expect. 

3.                    Make a bucket list. Outline personal goals for your study abroad experience. Whether it’s frolicking with indigenous animals you don’t have in your home country or having a truly authentic cultural meal with a host family – try anything you can.

4.                    Your study abroad experience is your own. Don’t compare yourselves to those around you. Everyone’s experience will be unique in it’s own way and we’re all on our own timeline.

5.                    You may experience some mild emotional ups and downs when you leave home and go abroad. Experiencing the blues or feeling a bit anxious is a normal part of the change process – especially when it comes to cultural adjustment.

 Remember, most people may never get the experience to live in another country, or even leave their own state. You’ve been given an extraordinary opportunity – use it in every way you can.

In the words of Charles Dudley Warner, “there is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.”

Bon voyage!