Friends and fellow travelers, I want you to study abroad, and study abroad well. Studying abroad is an amazing experience, with new friends and sweet adventures. It is also an experience full of challenges, stretching and personal growth. Studying abroad can be really overwhelming at times - and big things like culture shock, depression and homesickness hit you when you are already in a vulnerable space.
Here are my tips for taking care of you during study abroad:
1. This needs to be daily
Self-care should be a daily priority. Instead of waiting until I am down, I make sure that I take care of myself preventatively. It has been so much easier for me to navigate the challenges I have faced in my host culture because I am already mentally and emotionally healthy from a daily self-care routine. For me, this looks like reading my Bible every day, praying and spending time with my friends. You know yourself best: what do you love to do? What encourages you and refreshes you? Make regular time for those things.
2. Know your support
There are so many people that love you and care about you. Make sure you know who those people are, and lean on them! My family, friends and church leaders from home have been an incredible support for me. They encourage me when I am down, and they celebrate my little successes with me. I have also built a support network here in France with my friends and Bible study leaders. They give me great advice, and can easily empathize with my tough situations. The people in your life want to see you succeed and thrive abroad! Tell them how they can support you, and keep them updated on how you are doing.
3. Practice healthy habits
I want to take advantage of every single moment abroad - I am only in France for one short semester! I also know that I need to be healthy in order to be fully present during those sweet moments. Going to bed early, eating food that fuels your body and gives you energy, and exercising are all healthy habits that will help you stay physically healthy during your time abroad. I take a rowing class through my host university, I go hiking, I eat fruit everyday with my lunch, I take a water bottle to class with me and I make sure to get the sleep I need. Healthy habits are simple, quick and will help you to be fully ready for those amazing adventures!
4. Treat yo'self
We all have that thing that brings us a ton of joy. For me, that thing is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I smile just thinking about them! Unfortunately, Reese’s are really expensive here in France, and I am a study abroad student on a budget. I can’t afford for Reese’s to be a regular purchase, but I make sure I treat myself once in a while to some chocolate peanut butter goodness. What is that food, drink or experience that makes fills you with joy? Maybe it can’t be an every day habit, but make some time and space for it - sometimes a little treat can make a big difference.
5. Ask for help
Sometimes, we need more help than we can give ourselves. Ask for help. Being honest about a serious struggle is really hard, and it is also the best way to get the support and help you need. Your ISEP Program Officer can help connect you to great mental health resources in your host country, and they want to see you thrive abroad. If you know that you struggle with mental illness, or if you are discovering that you might be struggling with one while you are abroad, please do not hesitate to reach out.
I hope this list helps each and every one of you have a healthy and incredible time abroad!
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