5 Tips to Keep Calm While Abroad
Keep your emotions in check and make the most of your time abroad.
Studying abroad is one of the most life-changing and exciting experiences one can have during college. It’s a time to make long lasting friendships and create unforgettable memories. But along with all that, there can be a lot of stress and pressure during this time which, if overlooked, can really start to affect what you get out of your trip. Here are some tips to help make your time abroad the best it can be.
1. It’s okay to have a bad day.
Or even a bad week or month. This is completely normal. You’re not on vacation and, just like at home, there will be highs and lows. There’s a good chance you were warned about the roller-coaster of emotions that comes with studying abroad. There’s usually a honeymoon phase and when that ends, you might be left feeling upset and confused about how you could be miserable in a place you were in love with three days ago. This doesn’t happen to everyone and it certainly doesn’t happen the exact same way. For me, I became increasingly frustrated with not being able cook or find foods that I considered staples at home (like good avocados and my favorite kind of cheese). I tried to ignore it but ended up in tears over a sandwich from the school cafe because I’d been eating the same thing every day for 2 weeks. This sounds ridiculous, but it was a sign that my honeymoon phase was up. Don’t ignore these feelings. The sooner you address them and recognize them for what they are, the less resentment you’ll start to feel for other little things and the sooner you can get back to enjoying your adventures.
2. Talk about how you’re feeling.
About a month into my study abroad, everyone started to seem a little more tense and less thrilled to be abroad but no one was talking about it. Then one day in my Greek class, a girl said that she was sort of miserable and wanted to go home. Almost everyone in the class immediately agreed and seemed relieved they weren’t the only ones feeling that way. Within a couple of weeks, all these same people were back to loving their time abroad, but it took acknowledging and talking about the negatives to truly appreciate the positives. Don’t think that you’re being ungrateful if you’re not having a great time every second of every minute. Living in a new country is a huge adjustment. Chances are everyone around you is feeling the same way and hoping someone else will bring it up first.
3. Take a day to yourself.
FOMO is a very real thing, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed or secretly dreading going on yet another outing, it’s time to take a break. Relaxing abroad doesn’t have to be different from home. Spend a day curled up in bed watching movies or reading a book and eating comfort food. Take a nap. Watch the sun set. Find a spa. If you’re in a country where things are significantly cheaper, that might not even put you out that much financially, but do make sure you do your research, you don’t want to end up in a seedy place. In Greece, there was a massage and nail salon place down the street from my hotel that had hour massages for €15. Now that I’m in Boston, I’d give anything to find a good massage for even $40. Whatever works best for you, it won’t ruin your whole time abroad if you take a day to yourself every now in then and, in fact, it’ll make you more rested and ready for the next thing on your list.
Pro tip: Puppies make everything better. If you find yourself with one, you will be happy again in no time.
4. Call home.
This is a big one. Everyone says they’ll call every weekend but the busier you get the easier it is to put this at the bottom of your priorities. You might not need to call home every week, but at least once a month is usually a good start. I kept a blog abroad to keep my friends and family updated on my life, but no one was keeping a blog for me on what was happening at home. I missed a lot of stuff and calling home helped keep me in the loop. It also kept me sane. I even scheduled a Skype date with my parents during their dinner time so we could eat as a family. With all the technology available these days, there are so many ways to stay in touch and it’s worth keeping on top of. There’s nothing like a good talk with mom or your best friend to remedy your homesickness and remind you that you’re okay.
Studying abroad is a lot more common and easier to do than it was when our parents were in college, but this doesn’t make it any less of a big deal. It takes a huge amount of courage to leave the place you’ve known all your life and embark into a world of unknowns. There will be times you feel completely out of your league but don’t under estimate yourself. Take a breath and think of all the things you’ve accomplished so far. You’ve got this.