How to be OKAY, when you’re far from the comfort of home

By Lena O’Donnell
Visual Editor

Next semester I will be one of the 60 students studying abroad. What if my anxieties affect me while I am in the Czech Republic? How will I take care of myself so far from my therapist, and friends, and family? How am I going to be okay when I am so far from my usual life?

Consider these tips from students and faculty on how to take care of yourself…

  • Get out of your comfort zone: “You definitely have to be willing to be out of your comfort zone,” said Sullivan Miele ‘20 who studied in Spain. He advised not to hold up in your room, which might be your first instinct. “You’re living there you might as well make it a home.” Miele said getting out of his comfort zone really enhanced the experience.
  • Work out: Miele found that this workout routine helped him destress during those anxious times. “I would go on a 30-minute bike ride to a local rock climbing gym. Climb for an hour or two. They had a bar at the gym, so I might have a beer after.” To top it all off he would finish with a, “ride a 30-minute bike ride home.” Full body workout.
  • Reflect: Greaves mentioned that her program recommended journaling as a way to document experiences throughout the semester. “I do journal every now and then if I want to process how I’m feeling on paper,” she said. It can also be used to document feelings with the experience. Looking back you have your own memories written down.
  • Get an international data plan: One of High’s top travel tips: “Having technology that works so you can stay connected with other people.” Which ties back to making connections with people at your program and at home. High found that wherever she was she could always find someone to reach out to. Depending on what plan you have this option may vary, but before you study abroad to talk to your provider to see if they have any deals.
  • Therapists (Bergeron, your own, online): “The counselors at Bergeron are available to support students in identifying and building internal resources before heading off on a study abroad adventure,’’ said Erin Altermatt, counselor at Bergeron. Continue your self-care routines while you are abroad. “ If you’ve been prescribed medications at home, continue them while studying abroad. Contact your Program director or host university to get support if you feel your mental health is becoming unmanageable,” she said. A costly but more adaptable option is online therapy. You can find an array of options.
  • Take to do something familiar: Rachel High ‘20 went to India last spring. “Really try to immerse yourself, that is what this program, study abroad is for,” says High. But it can be too much to completely assimilate yourself wherever you are. “If sad or stressed I think something that is really comforting is doing familiar things.” High would travel 30 minutes away to an American store to buy a block of really expensive cheddar cheese with her roommate, “we would just sit there and eat a block cheddar because we missed cheese and we missed our home.”
  • Have some “Me time”: “I’m usually aware of when I need my alone time or a quiet space to calm my mind,” Greaves said. When you are around people all the time on your program you need time to yourself.
  • Reach out to family: Amanda Greaves ‘20 is currently in South Africa on her study abroad adventure. “I continue to feel the same feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious as I would if I was at Saint Mike’s” said Greeves. “Taking care of myself has meant reaching out to my family when I’m feeling down and I need to uplift my spirits,” they are the people that know her best.
  • Make connections:
  • “I always had someone to call through my program and I knew that if something really bad was going on that I could get help,” said High. Knowing that you have someone, especially someone in your program, there put High at ease if an issue came up. “Having a local, maybe it’s a host family member, maybe it is a professor, maybe it is a program director, having someone who is from that area who can get you out of tight situations is a really important thing.”