Traveling abroad comes with many exciting things: trying new foods, exploring new cities, learning about new cultures, and so much more. But traveling or living abroad can also come with feelings of stress and anxiety. Taking care of your mental and emotional health is just as important as your physical health.
One in four people experience with mental health issues at some point during their lives. College students dealing with depression or anxiety should not let that keep them from having the opportunity to travel and live abroad. There are many steps that can be taken before and during a study or intern abroad program to help ensure a smooth and enriching experience.
We’ve outlined a few suggestions for taking care of yourself before and during your abroad program.
Talk to yourself, first. Are you ready to go abroad? Think about your current mental and emotional health and make sure that you feel comfortable with the idea of being away from your home, school, family, and/or friends for an extended period of time. Next, talk to others. Talk to friends that have gone abroad previously. Talk to your parents. If you’re already treating a mental health issue, talk to your doctor. Get as much information as you can before making the decision to travel abroad.
Make sure you keep talking while you’re abroad. Talk to the other members in your cohort. Talk to your program lead. Talk to your parents or others back home. If you need it, talk to a professional (you’re program provider will help you find one in the city in which you’re located.)
2. Keep a Journal.
While it’s important to talk to others, sometimes it’s hard to be fully vulnerable. Writing down your thoughts each day will not only help you look back on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it will also help you internalize how you are feeling each day in a completely candid way. It may also help you detect which activities are bringing you sadness or joy, and you can begin to focus more on which aspects of your trip are bringing you the most happiness.
3. Practice Healthy Habits.
While abroad, there are certain things that you can do for yourself to prioritize your health. Taking a weekend to catch up on sleep, prioritizing exercise (whether that’s joining a local gym, or simply taking walks around the block), eating healthy foods, and drinking water will ensure that you body is at it’s best, which will ultimately help keep your mind at it’s best.
4. Get Out.
It can be easy to stay in your apartment and keep to yourself. However, visiting a museum with a new friend, planning a weekend trip to a new city you’ve never been to before, or even attending a local meetup with locals will help motivate you to get up and get out. While some days will be better than others, it’s important not to let any depression or anxiety you may be feeling overshadow the reasons you went abroad in the first place!
Overall, the most important piece of advice that we can give is that you’re not alone. Feelings of anxiety and isolation abroad are common, and you don’t have to go through them alone. Taking actionable steps for yourself to maximize your time abroad, in combination with letting those close to you understand how you are feeling, will set you up for success during your travels.
If you are on a Sage Corps program and experiencing a mental health emergency, please call our Emergency Line at +1 888-640-SAGE and we will help you to seek proper assistance through our insurance provider.