Dealing with Social Anxiety while Abroad

Christina Hui
July 11, 2018

Before I came abroad, I knew that my biggest struggle was going to be making friends and building a new social life. For the first few weeks, I bounced around multiple “friend groups” and figured that I was experiencing this social issue because I didn’t try hard to make friends earlier in the program, so everyone had already built their social circles. I made myself more extroverted than usual, but I always ended up all by myself at the end of the day. It took a negative toll on my mental, physical and emotional health.

I was inspired to write this after reading another IES Abroad blog about another girl who was going through a rough time adjusting and struggling to make friends. I knew that I was not the only person who struggled with social anxiety and moments like this flashed me back to freshman year in college, where I literally stayed in my room because I couldn’t make friends. Now that I’m more than halfway done in this program, I’ve come to realize that I believe that I’ve done everything that I could’ve done in putting myself out there and if people can’t recognize it, it’s not on me. I’m grateful for the moments that I’ve been invited to events, even if it was just for a few hours or a weekend. I’ve gotten the chance to do things I never would have thought like attend a soccer game in Aviva stadium and take a boat tour in Galway. Here are some small tips on how I've been coping, and I hope they can help you too:

1. Just Do It

One thing I had massive hesitations about in the beginning of my program was traveling to other countries for weekend trips. In my previous blog post about money guilt, I was conflicted between wanting to experience all these amazing travel opportunities with the financial guilt associated. But I decided to take the plunge and travel this weekend with my best friend, who is interning in Milan, and I have zero regrets. We went to Rome and Prague and I can wholeheartedly say that I recommend for everyone to take advantage of moments like this. Sure, I spent money, but it wasn’t as much as I expected, considering that we split most of the costs. Things cost money but spending time with your best friend is priceless and does wonders for your happiness and health. Remember that money comes back, but time doesn’t.

2. Stay Active

I'm not going to lie, there have been a few days where I've stayed in bed for the entire day and binged watched Netflix. Although there is nothing wrong with that, when that turns into a reoccurring event, that's a sign you need to get out. Taking care of your physical body is so important and little activities, such as walking, are so beneficial and an easy way to get your daily steps in. One thing I love about Dublin is that there are many options for sightseeing and random adventures; everything from the bustling downtown to tiny fishing cities near the coast. Something about being in nature is super relaxing for me plus I end up walking miles, so some places I recommend to check out are Howth, Giant’s Causeway and Galway. They are all beautiful, easily accessible from Dublin and are some of the best scenic views I’ve ever seen. Regardless of if you go solo or with a group, it's an opportunity you cannot miss. After one day in these places, you’re going to be so glad that you spent your day not staring at a screen.

3. Treat Yourself

Pretty self-explanatory, but find things that make you happy, whether that’s buying yourself a piece of cake or buying that shirt you keep thinking about. There are endless lists online on things you can do, so just remind yourself that you deserve to be happy. Personally, I have a huge sweet tooth, so I usually try to find unique desserts and sweets to try. Since I also get up fairly early for work, I tend to take one day out of the week to let myself sleep in for a few more hours and have a more relaxed start to my day.

4. Keep up with friends and family at home

It’s so hard to not get FOMO, especially when you see all your friends hanging out together on social media. Instead of feeling sad, I looked at Facetime and texting opportunities with my friends as a way to update them on my life, just like what I would do if I was at home. Trust me, call your friends and family, just hearing their voice or seeing their face will make everything better. Remember that you have a support system, no matter where you are in the world.

5. Don't Hesitate

At times, I found myself second guessing whether I should go to an event or travel to nearby towns because I wasn’t sure if I would consider them worthwhile. Don’t do that; if you have any ounce of curiosity or interest, that’s a sign for you to go. I had this hesitation about going to the Dublin Pride parade, but I told myself the morning of the event that I couldn’t miss out on my first full Pride. I stopped overthinking and ended up having a great time.

At the end of the day, put yourself first and learn to find joy in the little things. Sure, there are times you need to do it alone, but it's better to do it alone than to not do it at all. It won't be easy but know that there are hundreds of opportunities around you, so take advantage of every single one of them and just do it.

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Christina Hui

<p>I am an ambitious marketing major at the University of Iowa with the dreams of pursing a career in the cosmetics industry. During my free time, I enjoy taking Instagram worthy photos, drinking overpriced iced coffee, watching investigative journalism shows and lifting heavy weights at the gym. If you ever need to find me, I'll either be at Starbucks, sitting outside on a picnic blanket or strolling through the aisles of Target. While interning in Dublin, I hope to gain real life marketing experience, explore all the major foodie locations and make demonstrate my leadership abilities regardless of my skill levels.</p>

2018 Summer 1, 2018 Summer 2
Home University:
University of Iowa
Naperville, IL
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