Student Blogger Digest: Mental Health Abroad

Your semester abroad will be full of new and unknown experiences. It’s exciting! But the unknown can also be daunting.

To help you prepare, you might look to others who have already been abroad to get a sense of what it will be like. You may come across photo feeds full of smiling faces in front of iconic backdrops. It all looks so effortlessly perfect from the outside, but that’s not really the whole truth.

Anxiety, homesickness, culture shock—these are just as much features of the study abroad experience as the smiling photo dumps. It’s important to prepare for that reality before making your jump to Scandinavia and also to continue checking in with yourself once you’re here. Luckily, plenty of DIS students have gone through all of these experiences before you, so you don’t have to go into this new experience without words of wisdom from people who have been there.

Read below to see what some of our Student Bloggers have discovered about themselves and their mental health. Maybe their advice will be directly helpful for you, or maybe it’s just enough to know that everyone will struggle with something during their time abroad. If you find yourself in that position, you won’t be alone.

And if you do need help, you’ll have resources at DIS ready for you. You can find more information and links to resources at the end of the blog.

Ava (she/her), Davidson College, DIS Copenhagen

Bringing yourself with you

Does studying abroad magically solve any and all problems that exist in your life? It turns out… no. As Ava explains, via Adam Sandler, when you travel abroad, you are still you, just in a new location.

During her time in Copenhagen, Ava found herself growing and changing from her new experiences, but she also found that her new surroundings have reinforced, and even uncovered, some deeply rooted aspects of herself. She discovered that things aren’t as simple as ‘change’ or ‘don’t change.’

“I’ve come to realize during the study abroad experience that I have brought myself with me to this new environment. This self, though, is a very filtered, distilled version of me. The things that remain once everything else shifts in life—these weird little beautiful tidbits about myself are the things I get to keep wherever I go.”

Read more about Ava’s self-discoveries

Lauren (she/her), University of Utah, DIS Stockholm

How to manage anxiety abroad

“They warned us about this, but I was a wishful thinker and assumed that somehow my anxiety would magically disappear once I was in a new country surrounded by beautiful things. This was obviously NOT the case, or else I wouldn’t be here writing about anxiety on my blog (lol).”

Uprooting your life and moving into unfamiliar surroundings can be difficult for anyone, and especially for students who experience anxiety in their everyday life. Lauren learned that firsthand during her time in Stockholm, so she wrote a blog of advice to all those who also find themselves feeling anxious.

“There will be ups and downs throughout your study abroad experience, and that is completely fine. Some days you will feel so much adrenaline and serotonin and feel like you’re on top of the world. Others, you will question why you even came abroad in the first place… If someone as anxious as me can do it, so can you.”

Read Lauren’s reflections and her five tips for managing anxiety

Diya (she/her), College of Wooster, DIS Stockholm

The ‘Homesick’ Trilogy

Homesickness is an inevitable part of a semester abroad.

“I realized my homesickness was worse because I hadn’t seen more than a handful of South Asians in the month that I had been here. I didn’t know how much just seeing diversity around me [at Wooster] had kept my longing to be back in India at bay.”

Diya, who found herself at once missing both her home and family in India and at her U.S. campus, has written several blogs detailing her experiences. She writes that home, and homesickness, can look different for everyone.

Diya sought out comfort in many forms, joining the DIS Diverse Identities Affinity Group, searching for the best Indian food in Stockholm, and keeping in touch with family. In the end, one of the most cathartic for her was, of all things, a trip to see the Bollywood film Jawan, a film she herself admits was not objectively the best.

“Though, I probably have better recommendations that would probably paint Bollywood better, Jawan encapsulated home for me… I loved every minute of an overdramatized movie that I would usually make fun of. Homesickness looks different for everyone and so does the solution to it. If you take away anything from this, take that the smallest things often help the most.”

Read the full trilogy: Home? Homesickness?, Jawan, and Home

DIS Resources

These are just some of the ways students have experienced their mental health while at DIS. When you are abroad, you have resources at your disposal, no matter what you are experiencing.

Here is a list of some of what we offer, with links to each for you to explore.

The Care Team is made up of DIS staff who are there to talk, help you navigate your challenges, and connect you with the resources you need.

What about all those other smaller questions, like advice for where to find a meal that reminds you of home, how to connect with local clubs based around familiar activities that bring you a sense of comfort, or just how to manage your schedule during the darker, winter months?

The Student Hub is a one-stop spot where you can bring all your questions, big or small, and DIS staff will do their best to point you in the right direction.

Staff-facilitated student Affinity Groups make space for students to come together and share their experiences, difficulties, and triumphs.

Explore more DIS student perspectives on diversity abroad.

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