By: Elena (Ellie) Montes
To those of you studying abroad this semester: congratulations!! You’ve taken a huge step and should be proud.
And, for those of you who aren’t, still read on! (Also, you definitely should consider going somewhere new for a time – to gain new perspective is an amazing thing. Check out this list of opportunities/scholarships: http://www.studyabroad.com/scholarships.aspx)
I figured since I’m an “old hand” at this (hah – not!), I could give you some advice for this new adventure. Hopefully some of these tips* will get you through the first few weeks – these are often the most difficult! Don’t get scared though. You’ll soon settle in and have an amazing time!
* These tips aren’t just for those experiencing culture shock. Anyone who’s feeling under the weather or overwhelmed in any way, read on!
1. Set some goals. Use your favorite medium for this. Write a blog, draw your life in five years, make a list of things you want to accomplish, compose an original song, or just tell someone everything that excites you. Remind yourself of why you are where you are and where you want to go from here.
2. Meditate. If you’re having trouble imagining your goals, clear your mind and see what comes to you. Meditate the old-fashioned way or, my particular favorite, listen to your favorite album while lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling. Go stargazing. Play music. Do some calculus. Discover whatever method clears your head of all doubts and fear.
3. Indulge yourself. If you’re stressed out, it probably means you’re working hard –perhaps too hard. Cook yourself your favorite meal or buy yourself something you’ve been wanting. You deserve a little treat.
4. Work hard. Success is gratifying and self-assuring, and it comes in many forms. Whether you aced a test, received a compliment from your teacher on an assignment, or even learned a valuable lesson from a mistake you made, you have improved yourself. Small successes are just as important, so keep going. And don’t ever diminish self-worth based on someone else’s idea of success.
5. Socialize. Human interaction is important when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just seeing a familiar face can brighten your mood, and speaking to friends and family will often provide that extra support you need to keep going.
6. And don’t hesitate to seek help. If friends don’t seem to understand how you’re feeling – or if you’re feeling more down in the dumps than usual –, speak to a professional. Whether you’re experiencing culture shock or too much pressure at work or school, you can’t forget to look after yourself. This means taking care of your mental health. Sometimes it can be too difficult to dig ourselves out of a dark place, and there is someone nearby who is trained to help you! Reach out. You don’t have to shoulder all of this alone.
And on a personal note, if you need to talk to someone, send me a message. I’ve probably felt exactly how you have, and maybe I can provide some help. I’m not a professional, but I am here.
With all this in mind, go forth to the adventure of a lifetime!
Best of luck,