How to Prepare for a Study Abroad When Coping With a Mental Illness

Studying abroad is an absolutely magical once in a lifetime experience, but for some it can seem a little daunting especially when dealing with a mental illness such as depression or anxiety. If you ever have the opportunity to study abroad it is definitely something to consider! Studying abroad gives you a taste of the world outside of what you previously knew. You get to explore new places, experience new people and cultures, it is amazing! Here are some tips on how to prepare for studying abroad when dealing with a mental illness.

  1. Learn coping techniques Before you study abroad it's important to prepare yourself for any difficulties you may face. Culture shock can be a big one, but that’s okay. Bad days happen! Learn some coping techniques or activities that can help ease you through those bad days. A simple Google search is all you need to start learning about all the different coping mechanisms out there. If you see a therapist make sure to talk to them about techniques that could help you once abroad and make sure to keep their number or email on hand. If you are on any medication make sure to stay consistent with taking it and have enough to last your entire study abroad session!
  2. Know yourself When deciding when and where to study abroad take into consideration the length of time you’d be gone and where you think would be the best fit for you. Many study abroad programs have all sorts of sessions to choose from including summer or winter sessions, full semester, even sessions that last a full year. Ask yourself what would be the best length of time for you. If you don’t think you could do a full semester look into any possible summer or winter sessions which are shorter. Which country do you think would not only be fun but provide you with an easier adjustment compared to others? What classes are offered? Which ones would be the most exciting and useful for you? Ask yourself these questions to set yourself up for the best trip possible!
  3. Don’t be afraid to say no Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself when abroad. As much fun as it is to try new things and explore don’t be afraid to say no when you need to. Everyone needs time to recuperate, relax, and take time for themselves. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to explore and try new things. If you’re not feeling your best forcing yourself to participate, especially if you don’t want to, can sometimes just make you feel worse. It is perfectly okay to take time to yourself.
  4. Don't be afraid to branch out Remember it’s more than likely many of the other students participating in the program are just as nervous as you. If there’s something you really want see or do don’t be afraid to ask other students if they’d be interested. More often than not someone will always be down. Who doesn’t love a new adventure?
  5. Research Do some research on the country before you travel. Learn some basic phrases in the local language as well as what kinds of things to expect once you arrive. Doing this will help you with adjust to the new culture easier since you already have some prior knowledge of what to expect. Make sure to research what kind of weather to expect when over there, too.
  6. Stay in contact Make sure to stay connected to those back home and keep them updated. Send them pictures, and tell them all about your adventures. Staying connected will help you feel at ease knowing everyone you love is just a phone call away.
  7. Study Although it can seem like one long vacation, keep in mind you are still there to take classes. Make sure to keep up with the workload and study hard to get those credits.
  8. Journal Last but not least, journaling. Make sure to document all the adventures that comes your way. It will absolutely be worth it in the end when you can look back and relive all the amazing things you were able to experience when abroad and really, I mean everything. From the people to the food to a detailed description of the room you stay in. Trust me, it is absolutely so worth it.