How I Prioritize My Mental Health While Studying Abroad

When you think about studying abroad, you likely think of road trips and food tasting and museums. But, maybe we should also expand the conversation to include the ways that studying abroad can influence your mental health. Here are five ways that I’ve prioritized my mental health while studying abroad. I Take On A Smaller Course Load If I were still in Canada, I would fill up my schedule with a full course load like a plate of pancakes covered in whipped cream. But now that I’m in Spain without my usual support system, I recognize that I need to be gentle with myself. As a result, I’ve only chosen to take the minimum amount of courses necessary to be a full-time student. This means that I’m not overwhelmed with class and homework assignments while studying abroad. For me, the most important part of studying abroad is immersion in the culture, and I wouldn’t have time to do such if I were always in my apartment studying feverishly away. I Take Advantage Of My School’s Counselling Services I’ve had to see a counsellor since the age of 14, thanks to early onset development of certain mental illnesses. To prevent a mental catastrophe or relapse, I immediately looked into the counselling options that my Spanish university offered once landing in Spain. Regular visits to the my counsellor have taught me how to balance my school workload with my social life and the growth of my side hustle. I Engage In Regular Self-Care Activities One of the activities that I treasure most is journaling. The thought of pasting my instant Fujifilm pictures into my journal and writing about my adventures throughout Spanish cities and meeting Spanish people provides incentive for me to travel and explore my host city more. I know that this year abroad has been life-changing, and I want to be able to remember what my life was like while I lived abroad for a year. I’m Specific About The People I Spend Time With One of the most important components of quality mental health is the people you spend time with. At least, that’s what I’ve discovered. Toxic people exist everywhere you go, and it’s no different in Spain. While the majority of the people I’ve met have been welcoming, open-minded and friendly, I’ve still struggled to live up to the expectations that others have of me. As a self-proclaimed people-pleaser, I’ve found that it’s extremely difficult for me to say no. But, I’ve also discovered how empowering it is to allow yourself to disappoint people. Obviously it’s never great to disappoint others, but as my therapist taught me, these things happen when others have unrealistic and unfair expectations of you and how you should live your life. I Develop Good Relationships With My Teachers To Help My Semester Experience A good teacher will make or break my class experience. Snooze-worthy topics become captivating when your teacher is passionate and invested. I’ve found that developing a good relationship with my teachers helps to make class more interesting. It also makes it easier to ask for help or clarification when you need it. Thus, I think it’s important to prioritize mental health while abroad, and to open up the conversation about both the positive and negative effects of mental health.

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