Anxiety Abroad

Anne Coughenour
September 21, 2017

Anxiety abroad is not the same as anxiety in one’s home country. Anxiety abroad can often be similar but there is an undertone of much bigger consequences than usual. You’re in an unusual place doing unusual things and occasionally there is an unusual language surrounding you. If you get lost, you’re far from home in a somewhat scary new place. If you get sick, Mom isn’t right nearby to make you feel better. If you don’t make new friends, your existing one aren’t just around the corner. Anxiety abroad is a foe that feels a lot more than borderline impossible to tackle. And it is the cause of a lot of unnecessary behavior.

Anxiety abroad is checking your alarm every night, despite not having touched it since waking up that morning, to make sure that it will go off at the planned time, allowing adequate wiggle room to do what needs to be done and get where you need to go without any chance of mistake or being late.

Anxiety abroad is watching every metro station go by to double, triple, quadruple check that you don’t miss your stop, despite only needing to nab the next train in the other direction if you somehow do go too far.

              Anxiety abroad is lying in bed instead of exploring the amazing new world around you for fear of losing your passport (that you keep in your suitcase in your room) or your phone, which is clutched in your hand.

Anxiety abroad is trying to convince yourself not to wish you were back at home just so you would feel safe and loved again.

But just like anxiety at home, the only way I’ve found to beat it, is to face it. Take another step out of the comfort zone because let’s be real, even being here is pretty far out there. Need help? It doesn’t mean you’re weak if you look for support. Maybe there’s only one person you feel close enough to go do things with. Go do things with them or take a deep breath and ask someone you don’t feel as close to. Look for little things to do alone. It can be grocery shopping, getting a coffee, reading in a garden. You don’t need to change the course of your life (the study abroad experience is already doing that). You just need to get out there.

If I’m going to be honest, anxiety abroad is getting the better of me. I’m staying in FAR more than I’m going out. I’m not connecting to my classmates. I’m not exploring my new city. I’m not making the most of this experience. I am, however, trying to change. But change is hard and very scary, especially if you’re already dealing with all the scary thoughts anxiety gives you. It’s taking time, strength, and just the faith that everything will be fine in the end. Rationally, everything will be fine. But if you only thought rationally you wouldn’t be dealing with anxiety abroad at all.

Anne Coughenour

<p style="margin-bottom:12.0pt">I am the younger of two and the only one to study abroad. I have never had a bloody nose and I am immensely proud of that. I have always been very creative and am very excited to study abroad!<span style="text-autospace:none"><span style="font-size:16.0pt"><span style="font-family:&quot;Times&quot;,serif"> </span></span></span></p>

Destination:
Term:
2017 Fall
Home university:
Central College
Hometown:
Holland, MI
Major:
French Language
Psychology
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