While sometimes overlooked when planning to study abroad, taking care of yourself both mentally and physically is one of the most important parts of making the most of your experience. Tyler talks through things to keep in mind to keep yourself feeling great throughout your semester!
When thinking about studying abroad, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is likely the cool pictures, radical lifestyles, and all the epic things to do. What isn’t often talked about however is the fact that when going abroad for an entire semester, not every day is going to be the dream you might expect. Similar to everyday life, there are good and bad days. Not every day is going to be good—and that’s okay! It’s a natural part of traveling and living in a new environment.
Admittedly, taking care of myself while in Sydney has been more challenging than I anticipated. I came into my trip sick and have been dealing with a cough and a cold. The initial excitement of the journey has worn off and with classes and my internship in full swing, along with all of the fun things to do, I’ve found it difficult to successfully manage my time.
Don’t fret. In no way has this ruined my experience. It’s part of the natural adjustment that comes with traveling and living abroad. It’s important to be prepared for this adjustment and be mindful of how you are feeling.
Starting with mental health, here are a few strategies that can help you in staying sharp. It’s important to realize that these are not one-size-fits-all solutions. Do what works for you.
Have a routine
Having somewhat of a routine helps you stay organized and ensures you are accomplishing all that you want to in a given day. It doesn’t have to be all business either, this can also be a great strategy to knock off everything on your must-see list. If you want to go to the beach once a week, find time to do that! Craft your schedule in a way that allows you to feel confident in being able to get everything done that you need to while enjoying all that the city has to offer.
Additionally, perhaps the most important thing to include in your schedule is sleep. While it likely won’t be perfect, be intentional about trying to get enough sleep every night and catch up when needed.
Get to know your fellow peers
One cool part of going abroad with CEA CAPA is that it’s not just with people from your university. You will have the opportunity to experience this journey with students from across the country which is a neat chance to make new friends—take advantage of this! Especially in the first part of your semester, take the time to get to know your fellow study abroad peers. If there’s people you already know in the program, definitely have a great time with them but don’t forget to push yourself out of your comfort zone and meet new people.
Make time for yourself
On the flip side, don’t forget about yourself! While it can be awesome meeting new people, trying new things, and experiencing your new surroundings, it’s important to make time for yourself, whether it’s through reading, listening to music, going on walks, working out, playing games, talking to friends and family, etc. Don’t overcomplicate it—while it may be a new environment, refresh yourself doing things similar to what you do at home. Making time for yourself may mean having to say no to other plans and things you may really want to do, but don’t feel up for at that time. Remember that it’s okay to say no and if you manage your time throughout the trip, you will have plenty of opportunities to do everything you want.
A bonus tip: journaling
Not only is this a great way to check in on yourself mentally but it’s also a fun way to document your journey. While abroad, many things happen leading to lifelong memories and great stories, and journaling is a great way to document them.
Check in on yourself and others
Make sure you are checking in on yourself mentally and take the time to notice how you are feeling. CEA CAPA has plenty of people to support you if any issues arise, and don’t forget to talk to people when things come up. Additionally, mental health should not be tackled alone—check in on your fellow peers, friends, and roommates to ensure they are doing well. Create a friendly environment where people feel comfortable talking to you and saying no when they need alone time. Assist people in seeking help when needed.
Prioritize physical health
Physical health can also be a challenge to maintain while abroad. It can be easy to constantly be on the go, but your body can only take so much. Between the socializing, perhaps a lack of sleep, adjusting to a new environment and maybe not ingesting the healthiest food and drinks, your immune system may be weaker than normal, making it easier to become sick. Make sure to balance out the bad with some good and stay in a healthy exercise routine if that’s important to you. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and being sick while abroad can be quite frustrating.
If you do catch a sickness however, it’s not the end of the world. It may require missing out on a couple social activities and taking it easy in order to get better, but it’s much better to give yourself a chance to improve rather than continuing to push your body and prolonging your illness. It's also important to note that, in addition to the insurance coverage you may have from your home institution, CEA CAPA provides you with medical, travel, and accident insurance for your time abroad, and if you have any questions about scheduling a doctor’s appointment, the CEA CAPA staff is glad to help. I went to the doctor a week into my trip, and it was a fairly seamless process.
Tyler Harms-Synkiew is an official blogger for spring 2023, sharing his story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Sports Management major at University of Minnesota, he is studying abroad in Sydney this semester. All views expressed are his own and may or may not reflect the experiences of other students.
Tyler's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.