Jael Vaquero is a student at Rowan University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Barcelona, Spain.
Before I arrived in Barcelona, I used to fantasize a lot about how my study abroad experience would be. I used to imagine myself eating tapas on terraces every day and taking trips every other weekend with my newfound best friends. I thought of how sunny it would always be and that I was about to embark on the best adventure of my life. I thought nothing could go wrong.
And yet- on my fifth day here, I found myself crying on the metro because I suddenly felt overwhelmed. All at once, I felt anxious about not having enough friends, sad about not communicating enough with my family, and overall feeling foolish because I was in one of the best cities in the world, but felt so alienated. I didn’t think I would experience any of these feelings because I thought I prepared myself well enough back at home, but there I was, randomly crying on a sweaty metro with strangers staring at me.
I’m happy to report that things have gotten tremendously better since then. I’ve made lots of friends, I’ve gotten to know Barcelona more, and I talk to my family and friends regularly. However, it’s still hard some days. Some days I feel a little lonely and anxious, but I know I’m not the only one. I have friends that have experienced the same feelings and have reached out for help, which is one of the most important things you can do if you find yourself feeling the same. It took me a while to realize that even though I really am having the time of my life, it’s okay to feel down sometimes and that my feelings are valid. Most importantly, I learned how to practice self-care. In case someone reading this is feeling the same way, here are some tips that I’ve found really helpful to boost up my mood when I’m not feeling my Kanye Best.
- Reach Out for Help
This tip seems a little cliché, but I promise you it’s so important. Reach out to anyone you feel comfortable talking to– a friend, a program director, or even a professor. Talking about how you’re feeling helps you divulge in topics that you might have been bottling up for a while. You will instantly feel more supported and let it all out will feel like a weight is lifted off your shoulders.
- Go Outside- take a walk, go on a run, or just sit in a park jamming to your music
Wherever you’re studying abroad, odds are that you have a favorite spot that you like to walk through or a park you like to sit in with your own thoughts. Fresh air is proven to be beneficial to your mental health and would result better for your overall mood. For Barcelona in particular, here are some of my favorite spots to visit when I want to have soul-searching-meditation-time.
Organize your room, your school schedule, your meetings with friends- everything! Organizing is a great way to help alleviate some anxieties you may have and while it’s a small step, it can do a lot for you. For example, if you organize a calendar with all the homework assignments you have due in a particular month, you can pace yourself and have time to do more fun things!
Remember, it’s okay to feel certain things sometimes, but know that you are not alone. Plenty of study abroad students sometimes have feelings of loneliness, homesickness, and culture shock, but these things can be managed if you practice self-care. Also, don’t forget that your program is a great resource for anything you need (and I mean anything)!
Could not have read a truer blog post! I totally get this and have been feeling a lot like this lately! This year has been such a rollercoaster of emotion but nearing the final stretch now :) Great advice too x