Handling Burnout While Studying Abroad

Jules Katz headshot
Jules Katz
December 8, 2023

Studying abroad in Milan has been extremely exciting, fun, and fast-paced, but it has also left me feeling socially, academically, and mentally exhausted. Living in a new country with a cultural difference and a language barrier can be difficult. I know I'm not the only one who suffers from mental illnesses, so you guys know that the colder months make everything a lot harder. My parents told me before I left that "Anything you struggle with at home will follow you everywhere; sadly, that includes traveling abroad." We all talk about the incredible, beautiful places we've visited, but we don't talk about the amount of studying and burnout that comes with living in a new place. Here are a few things I've learned and challenges I've faced while being in Italy: 

The Cultural Adjustment: It is common for people to take some time to transition to life in an unfamiliar country. This includes learning new social norms, practices, and pace of life, which can be demanding initially but will gradually become automatic. I had a hard time feeling at ease, but after you get into a routine and get over the cultural shock, you start to feel more comfortable.

Navigating the Language Barrier: I arrived in Milan knowing no Italian, but we had a two-week intensive Italian course to learn the fundamentals, which helped a lot in the beginning with ordering, greetings, and basic conversational phrases. The first month was difficult, but it gradually became easier to understand and respond to the Italian spoken around me. However, learning and correctly speaking a new language can be mentally exhausting on top of your workload.

Staying on top of Academics: As someone who usually writes essays and does projects for my major, adjusting to the IES Abroad and the Italian education system has been challenging since it is all about testing. Everyone's workload differs, but trying to stay up with all the academics while adjusting to a new environment can be stressful and taxing. You must remember to practice self-care and look after your well-being in addition to your work. 

Time Management: Balancing friends, work, and travel can be difficult for everyone. Most of my weekdays have been spent working and being out with friends, while weekends have been spent traveling, wandering Milan, or staying in bed with a cold. Since I've been constantly on the go, this has undoubtedly led to my burnout.

Social Life & Self-care: Time management made me think of the pressure of always doing things and attempting to maintain, form, and keep relationships. Many people come to study abroad with the idea that we should be exploring and going out all the time, whereas doing so all the time contributes significantly to burnout. We all want to have as much fun as possible, but you must know your limits and think about what is best for your health, growth, and happiness. (This is also coming from an introvert whose social battery dies quickly.)

While abroad, it is essential to prioritize self-care, set realistic goals, and utilize your support systems. Maintaining a balance between academics, personal well-being, and relationships is much needed. I've been journaling and working on art projects to help ground me throughout my time abroad. We're all anxious and exhausted, especially before final exams, so just know we'll all get through it together.

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Jules Katz headshot

Jules Katz

I am a Gender Studies student at Skidmore College :) I'm a graphic designer for Lunchbox, a lovely school magazine incorporating fashion, art, and writing. I also love to bullet journal, listen to music, take photos, create art, and dance!

2023 Fall
Home University:
Skidmore College
Gender Studies
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