Studying Abroad, Your Emotions, and You

Stephanie Holland is a student at Arizona State University, and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Barcelona, Spain

So you’ve decided to study abroad. You go through the application process and months of planning. But in all that planning, did you include how you were going to adapt to a new culture? While studying abroad is an exciting and unique experience, people are not always prepared for the spectrum of emotions they will go through. Everyone is susceptible to these emotions, regardless of if it’s your first time studying abroad or if you’re an experienced globetrotter.

It’s also completely normal to go through these emotions. Culture shock is just one of the parts of adapting to life abroad.

I began my study abroad program in Barcelona, Spain about a month ago. This is also my first time in Europe. Here’s 5 tips I’ve come up with that work great in helping your mind and body stay balanced.


#1: Take a walk around your city

This may sound like the most basic advice, but can be the most helpful. Not only are you learning more about how to get around your city, you also have some time to just observe, breathe, and get some exercise. Not to mention get some vitamin D, which has shown to play a vital role in mental health. When we first arrived in Barcelona our program directors told us that “It’s o.k. to get lost sometimes,” which I now completely agree with. Just be sure to take a map with you, at least!

#2: What do the locals enjoy?

Find where the locals hang out, and go there! Participate in local holidays and cultural activities. This will help you feel like you are more a part of where you are living. Once you begin to understand the norms of the country that you’re in, your comfort level rises very quickly.

#3: Exercise + your hobbies

Sometimes you just need to clear your mind. Meditation and exercise are great tools for this! It can even be a new habit you make while studying abroad. Think of something you enjoy and do it, even if it’s something small. These methods are great for channeling positive energy and could possibly help you meet people who are interested in the same things!

I have a couple apps on my phone that are great assets in the realm of exercise:

  • Runkeeper is a very popular app! I love it because it tracks more activities than just running. It also has workout programs.
  • Calm is a great meditation app. While there is a paid membership, there are also several free meditations that work great.

#4: Ask for help

One perk of studying abroad is having access to a large support system. Your family, program directors, and friends, are examples of people you can rely on in this transition process. If you find yourself struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out.

#5: Healthy habits

I’m not just talking about food. Healthy habits are crucial in your thinking, as well as your actions. It’s no secret that many students take advantage of the lower drinking ages in their host country. For many, they have never gotten to experience going to bars and clubs before. While it is a lot of fun, remember that these methods of entertainment shouldn’t be used as a crutch to deal with feeling sad, frustrated, etc.

In this great new experience you are about to take on, I urge you to be diligent about your physical health, mental health, and also your safety. Arming yourself beforehand with tools to deal with culture shock and your emotions will help ensure that studying abroad is one of the best experiences of your life!

The world awaits…discover it.


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