Preparing to Study Abroad in Vienna with Anxiety

Elisabeth Bolton Headshot
Elisabeth Bolton
May 26, 2024

I have always dreamed of living abroad since I was a kid. My parents had lived in Germany before I was born, and they would tell me stories and show me pictures of all the interesting experiences they had while living there. The thought of visiting another country was exciting but also scary because there are so many unknowns. As someone who has struggled with severe anxiety, I never thought I would have the capability to travel or live abroad due to my mental health, but when I decided I wanted to study abroad, I made an effort to figure out how to manage my mental health so I could come to Vienna. 

The first and best thing I did to prepare for studying abroad in Vienna was to research everything I could think of. Eliminating unknowns helps eliminate anxiety about the unknowns, so knowledge is your best friend! Know the basics – basic language, knowledge about culture and customs, display rules, and food – then follow your curiosity and find out more. Also, reach out to the IES Abroad program advisors for questions because they are super helpful.

The second thing I did to prepare myself for study abroad was talk to my therapist about coping and preventative measures I could take to manage my mental health. One of the biggest things I changed was my self-talk – I had been telling myself for so long that I was not capable or independent enough to travel abroad, but in reality I was completely prepared and I have a great support system rooting for me along the way. If you are thinking about studying abroad, but afraid your mental health will hold you back, my advice is to trust in your capability to do this. 

Perhaps the most important way for me to prepare for studying abroad was figuring out how to stay in contact with my support system and loved ones back home. I knew homesickness would be a part of this journey, but that pain is a small tax on the joy of a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is studying abroad! Through Discord, WhatsApp, and an international phone plan through my provider, I am able to stay in touch with my partner, my parents, and my friends daily, and I can get in touch with my therapist at any time as well. Accounting for the time difference is a big part of maintaining your connections while you’re abroad, so I made sure to tell my friends to add the Vienna clock to their phones, and we even scheduled windows of time to call and text each other. 

Preparing for this journey was a rollercoaster of emotions, at some points I was elated and at others, I was so sad or anxious, but now that I am here I am so full of gratitude for this opportunity, and I have woken up smiling every morning. I was most anxious about 1-2 weeks before my trip when it all got very real and I was having to say goodbye to my friends and family and packing up. At some points, I even thought, “What if I can’t do this?’ but it was only anxiety speaking. As soon as I stepped off the plane in Vienna, I was so excited and grateful to have made this commitment!! If you struggle with depression or anxiety like me, and you think it will hold you back from being able to travel abroad, I hope that you reconsider, and I hope that you believe in yourself and your ability to do this because you are capable! With proper planning, a support system, and help from IES Abroad, I know you can do this!!





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Elisabeth Bolton Headshot

Elisabeth Bolton

Hi! I'm Elisabeth, and I'm a psychology major and neuroscience minor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This is my first time traveling abroad! My favorite things to do in my free time are journaling, taking walks, and scrapbooking!

2024 Summer 1
Home University:
University of Tennessee - Knoxville
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