Social Anxiety During Orientation

Megan Kempton headshot
Megan Kempton
February 1, 2024
A picture of a sign at Walthamstow saying the words "Welcome" with a large heart.

Coming to England I knew that any mental health struggles I already had would not go away, and that I would need to find a new way to navigate them. However, being in a new country and making new friends is difficult no matter how much I mentally prepare myself. I found this to be most poignant during orientation. For someone with social anxiety, such as myself, being put in a room with hundreds of new people and feeling the pressure to make new friends immediately is a lot. While I am confident that once classes start and I am able to get to know people in smaller groups it will be far easier to connect with people removed from some of the pressure, I still acknowledge that by the end of the three days of orientation my social battery was depleted. Because of this, I wanted to share something I’ve learned and how to take care of yourself during this stressful but exciting time!


Stay Connected

Talking to my friends and family at home has made all of the difference. While I am very lucky that I’ve come here with people I already know, homesickness is real. During orientation I made sure to call my mom once a day. However, I was dealing with a time difference, so planning was important! Make sure to tell your family and friends when you’ll be available to call, and ask them when they are too. I also highly recommend texting your friends about your adventures in group chats, or even making a private social media channel just about your time abroad! While being abroad is all about trying new things, it’s still important to stay connected to what makes you feel like yourself.


Take Time For Yourself

When being in a new place, there can be a certain pressure to be experiencing everything all the time right away. While yes, you do want to make sure you make the most out of your time here, remember that you are here for four months. There is no shame in taking time to yourself to recharge and recalibrate. Orientation and transition are stressful things, and don’t pressure yourself to be going all the time. Keep your battery charged, and know that you’re in it for the long haul.


Don’t Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself

In a similar vein, there can be a lot of pressure to make lifelong friends right away when in a new place. I know that I was told over and over again that being abroad would be life changing and I would make new friends that would last me the rest of my life. While this is again true, it’s important not to expect yourself to make these lifelong connections within the first week. Again, you’re here for four months! Give yourself grace. Remember that things take time, and allow yourself the space for growth rather than expect immediate change. 


Learn From the Past

A common phrase I heard during orientation was, “This is freshman year all over again.” This is incredibly apt, with a bunch of young adults being taken away from their comfort zone and being thrown into a group of new people. However, the experience does not have to be the same. Remember, if you have already gone to a University, you’ve done this before, and chances are you’ve learned. Think back to the last time you did this, and reflect upon what boundaries you need to set, what things make you feel comfortable, and what things don’t. And remember, this is different for everyone.

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Megan Kempton

My name is Megan Kempton and I am a junior at American University studying Musical Theatre and Communication studies. I'm going to London to study and to embark on an internship. In my free time I like writing, reading, puzzles, and making music!

2024 Spring
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Theatre Arts
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