How Am I Here: Dealing with Imposter Syndrome Abroad

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and jump. We, as humans and as Americans, spend so much time worrying about the next thing or the better opportunity coming around. Study abroad, at least for me so far, has been about learning to slow down and appreciate the current thing or opportunity. Sometimes, you need to adopt the Irish mindset I’ve come to love and just take a deep breath and go for a walk. Because if you don’t, your mind can run in all kinds of directions. My mind has landed on imposter syndrome.  

What am I doing here?  

Imposter Syndrome: noun. The constant inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or is legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own effort or skill.  

This syndrome has become a lot more common in daily life with Gen Z students across the country than it was a decade ago. I’m not even sure if there was a name for this feeling 10 years ago, but it definitely existed. I’ve been feeling it for most of my life with no label or word for it until recently.  

I overthink things constantly, so it was no surprise to me when I landed in Dublin, Ireland that I immediately started feeling the imposter syndrome. I just kept leaning over to one of the girls in my program and whispering different variations of ‘I can’t believe this is real.’  

How did I get here?  

Study abroad programs do a great job of preparing you for all things packing, documentation, classes, and so much more. For me though, I wasn’t worried about how I would feel when landing. My program director told us that we would feel all these negative and positive emotions, and he talked about adjusting to life abroad. All I knew was I was excited to get out of the country for the first time, and I was neither concerned not worried about feeling any negative emotions. Boy, I should’ve been worried.  

We got to campus from the airport, and I felt like I was in a fever dream. I just let our program director blindly lead me to various places for check in and eventually my first meal in a foreign country. After this meal, I took a walk around campus to take a deep breath for what felt like the first time since I left my house the morning before.  

The half of campus that is considered the older half looks like its straight out of a Harry Potter movie.  

My favorite things include rainy weather, cobblestone streets, Harry Potter, and small towns that look like they belong in a Hallmark movie. So, when all of these things showed up in my university in Maynooth, a town about 45 minutes outside of Dublin, I knew I would need to start journaling to cope with the overwhelming imposter syndrome I was feeling.  

How do I cope?  

I didn’t even know where to start.  

My new friends and I went and listened to live music at a restaurant the night after we got there. Thankfully, music is something I have a deep appreciation for, so sitting there listening to familiar songs helped with my overwhelming feelings. It was there that I decided to journal during my time in Ireland.  

We stopped on Grafton Street while in Dublin, and I found that music once again helped calm me down.  

Music is the first thing I do to cope with feelings of imposter syndrome while abroad. The second is writing my thoughts. As an avid blogger and writer (obviously), journaling helps get my thoughts out. Every day I have been here, I have spent anywhere from 5 minutes (just to get some feelings out) to an hour (documenting everything I can remember doing) writing in a notebook I brought. If you are ever abroad, journal even if you don’t have feelings of imposter syndrome. I have a terrible memory and it helps recollect all of the memories I have made so far.  

My last piece of advice on how to cope with imposter syndrome is to take a deep breath. You are where you are supposed to be, and you deserve it. Enjoy and embrace the culture. I’ve found the more I act like a local and talk to the locals, the less I feel the imposter syndrome. So, just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and jump.    

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