How to Maximize Your Time Abroad Through Mindfulness

April 15, 2016

ISEP student Melissa O. is a part of ISEP Voices Spring 2016. She is a Spanish education major from University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, and is currently studying abroad at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso in Chile.

Mindfulness is a concept that is still very new to me, but I have already benefited a great amount from simply knowing about it and I am slowly beginning to practice it myself. Mindfulness, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Basically, this means instead of letting your mind wander or worry, you stay fixated on what is currently happening and processing those thoughts. Essentially, you are working toward fixating on the present, not the past or future. By being mindful abroad, you will maximize what you take away from your experience!



1. Open your eyes

While abroad, you are going to see and experience something new and exciting each day. By being mindful and living in the present moment, you will absorb so much more of these experiences. Thus, upon leaving these special places, you will appreciate them so much more, helping you see what an amazing place you are currently calling “home”.


2. Enjoy the normalities

Your daily ride on the bus, walk to school or lunch time may all seem extremely normal and repetitive, especially a month into your time abroad. By being mindful throughout these times in your day, you will realize new parts and pieces to these activities. Once you return home, you are bound to miss these once “normal” activities, so soak in every little bit of them while you can.


Although this is a normal pastime for me now, when I’m back home in Wisconsin, I know that I will be wishing to be back in this spot. Be mindful and absorb the environment while you are in it.

3. Unplug

One of my favorite purchases made here in Chile has been my Nokia cell phone. No, not because it makes me look extremely stylish and hip, but because it only makes phone calls and sends local texts. When I’m out with my friends, this is all I have with me as far as communication devices. This forces me to unplug and enjoy the company around me. Having only my Nokia helps me be mindful and enjoy the time spent with my friends here.


4. Don’t stress

Being abroad often comes along with some serious causes of stress. Planning trips, school work, language barriers, living with a family that is not your own and more, all can affect your stress level. By being mindful and focusing on the present, you can eliminate a lot of the stress you may feel while abroad. Instead of worrying about when you will find time to do your research paper, observe the people, sights, smells and sounds of where you are in that moment.


I will never forget the sounds, smells and sights of this evening observing the sea lions play!

5. Journal

Journaling is a great way to practice mindfulness, especially while abroad. Make time to sit down with just your thoughts on a current situation and write them down. You will learn more about yourself and how you are seeing the world, as well as have a great story to look back on later.



If you’re eager to learn more about the practice of mindfulness, there are several resources out there for you! Here are some of my favorites:


Top 10 Books for Learning Mindfulness

Are you ready for your own adventure? See all of your study abroad options on the ISEP website.

Want to see more from our ISEP bloggers? Learn more about our ISEP Voices Spring 2016 group.


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