Managing your wellbeing on your year abroad
Going on your year abroad - Exciting vs. Daunting
Spending time abroad as part of your degree is often talked about as an exciting prospect and a once in a lifetime experience. Having said this, it’s also completely normal to experience difficult feelings at various points on your journey, such as a sense of loneliness and isolation.
Studying abroad is a big transition and, like any change, can lead to feelings of discomfort and unfamiliarity. If you’ve experienced this, you’re not alone in finding the process hard and it doesn’t mean you’re failing.
So what can you do to support your wellbeing whilst on your year abroad? Below are some ideas you may find helpful.
Recognise and acknowledge how you’re feeling
Take some time to really check in with how you’re feeling. Just acknowledging that you may be struggling can be really useful.
Try to catch yourself if you experience thoughts that you ‘should’ be coping or managing and instead respond with some kindness and compassion.
For some people, part of acknowledging how they’re feeling is about talking it through with someone like a friend or a loved one. If there isn’t someone you feel you can turn to, then you could consider speaking to a Wellbeing Adviser - The Wellbeing Service is still here to support you whilst you’re on your year abroad.
Homesickness is a struggle most people face at some point in their experience of a year abroad. As humans, we all crave a sense of belonging so plan in time to connect with loved ones and friends back home. Set a date or schedule a regular catch up, rather than whenever you feel homesick.
Connect with others who are in a similar situation and exploring like you. This could be particularly helpful if you’re experiencing a bit of a culture shock when you first arrive or whilst you settle in, and you can support each other to embrace any opportunities to meet new people too.
It can be all too easy to make comparisons about what you’re doing, what others on their year abroad may be experiencing, as well as those at home. Be mindful of how social media may be contributing to this - it can create the illusion of feeling connected whilst actually being a maintaining factor in feelings of isolation and growing discontent for your experience.
Making comparisons reduces our ability to take notice of our own experiences so bring your attention back to what you’re doing and celebrate your successes and achievements, no matter how small they might be.
Remember, people who are sharing aren’t sharing the negative experiences for the most part! Everybody’s experience in their year abroad is going to be unique & not comparable.
Go at your own pace
Some people like throwing themselves into the deep end, whilst others may prefer to ease themselves out of their comfort zone when they first arrive abroad. It can take time to cope with culture shock, so set your own pace that feels right for you, whilst trying to be curious and open minded.
If you’re finding the change tricky to navigate, try taking one day at a time, focus on what is in your control right now and what you can do.
Practice self-care as you would at home
Build a routine, just as you would at home. This may seem like a small thing but shouldn’t be underestimated during times of difficulty or change. A routine can provide an anchor and a sense of stability and certainty.
Incorporate opportunities and exciting finds, as well as some familiar home comforts and basic needs like sleep, exercise and nutrition.
Finally, remember the Student Wellbeing Service can still support you whilst you’re abroad. To find out more about the support we offer and how to book an appointment, visit our service website.
Student Wellbeing Adviser