It can be both exhilarating and challenging to get ready to study abroad, especially if you're a mixed woman of color who suffers from severe anxiety. I've been using the tips listed below, and I plan to continue doing so to complete this process:
- Research your destination: Even though I have never been to Italy, I am familiar with the country where I will study, thanks to my research. Familiarize yourself with the customs, laws, program safety precautions, and other potential challenges you may face.
- Seek guidance from your study abroad office: Contact your college's study abroad office. They can advise on potential programs for you, provide key information, keep you on track, and assist with any questions.
- Connect with support networks: Reach out to other students who have studied abroad or connect with student groups that can support you. They can provide valuable insights, tips, and support and share their experiences and advice.
- Research mental health resources: Locate mental health resources at your destination, such as counseling services, before you arrive. Having this information in advance can provide reassurance and a sense of security. Asking for help in the heat of the moment is always harder. Additionally, consider bringing along any necessary medication and coping mechanisms to help you manage your anxiety/other mental illnesses.
- Develop coping strategies: Learn to put your anxiety-management techniques into practice, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, journaling, art, or exercise. These techniques can be beneficial during stressful moments or when you feel overwhelmed. To record my time spent overseas and to help me stay grounded, I intend to keep a bullet journal and sketchbook for the year.
- Establish a support system: Communicate with trusted relatives, friends, or mentors who can provide moral support and inspiration when traveling overseas. Keep in touch with them and let them know about your experiences and/or any difficulties you may be having. You'll be brought back to reality when you hear a soothing voice.
- Educate yourself about local customs and norms: Understanding cultural differences might give you the confidence to deal with social settings. To guarantee you can respect and engage properly within the local culture, learn about local customs, greetings, and more. I’ve been using Duolingo for 5 minutes daily to prepare for going abroad and improving my language skills.
- Pack familiar items: Bring a few sentimental items with you that will provide comfort and familiarity in your new environment, such as pictures, books you love, stuffed animals, or little mementos.
- Practice self-care: Make self-care activities that reduce stress and anxiety a priority. This may involve taking up hobbies, practicing mindfulness, living a healthy lifestyle, and taking regular breaks to unwind and recharge. My favorite activities are journaling, listening to music, taking photos, creating art, and dancing. They keep me grounded and content.
Remember that studying abroad can be a profound and enriching experience. You can navigate this journey with resiliency and confidence by being proactive, getting help, and maintaining self-care routines.
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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!