Managing ~stress~ while studying abroad

Melanie Garza
October 13, 2021

Hola a todos! It’s been over a month now in Madrid so now that everyone is getting settled into the lifestyle it seems like the honeymoon period is ending for some, and more and more people are finding themselves overwhelmed with work, homesickness, or feeling down in general. Personally, being a senior looking into graduate school, this fall semester for me is all about applying to programs and setting myself up for the next chapter of my life. Whether it’s grad school, internships, family matters, or anything else, it can be hard to deal with “real life” while abroad. Because so many of my friends are experiencing hard times in dealing with the stress of it all, I thought it would be a good topic for this week.

When studying abroad it’s very likely you’ll experience a strong honeymoon period when you first arrive and are exploring everything your city and country have to offer. After this period, some people experience hard times in adjusting to life abroad when combined with responsibilities back home. Hopefully you’ll ease out of the honeymoon period and continue just enjoying your time in your location but if you don’t, that’s totally ok and very common! There are a couple of things we can do to help ourselves have a better time and manage our responsibilities both in our study abroad programs and back at home. 

If your stress is induced by applications—internships, work, graduate school, etc.—then time management is EVERYTHING. It’s really easy to get carried away in the day-to-day fun stuff, but if we want to stay sane we have to make time for work too. Personally I think it’s best if you designate a specific day and/or time to take care of the work from home that you might forget otherwise. Once you set aside time to work, respect your time!! A lot of times people schedule time to work and then just don’t me, I’ve been there. That is so self-destructive though because not only do you not have your work done, you also wasted time and will probably feel bad about yourself for doing that. Even if it’s not the most productive work session, getting a little bit of work done is better than none, and will help you a lot in the long run. 

If your stress is family related, then that is a little more complicated. There are so many possible scenarios in which family can add stress to your life I can’t even begin to address each one. The general advice I’d give however, is to communicate how you’re feeling. If you feel comfortable communicating directly with your family, awesome! If not, there are many counseling resources out there, some even sponsored by IES Abroad, that can help a lot in just listening or also providing guidance in how to address your specific situation. 

Wherever your stress is coming from, remember to look at the bigger picture! You were given an amazing opportunity to experience a different culture and meet so many new amazing people and try new things. It’s normal to get stressed sometimes, just don’t let it ruin your time because this is time we won’t be getting back. Perspective is truly one of the underrated concepts in dealing with stress. Keep an open mind and don’t get caught up in the little nuisances of life, because you won’t even remember them in a few months. What you will remember is the amazing time you had exploring a new culture and the many extraordinary experiences that came with that. Sending good vibes to anyone who is struggling. It’s gonna be ok, you got this, and practice some perspective!

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Melanie Garza

<p>Hi, I’m Melanie! I’m a senior at Carnegie Mellon University, majoring in Physics. After graduation, I plan on attending graduate school in pursuit of a Ph.D. in Physics. While I love STEM, I also love the arts! I’m part of an a cappella group, I’m in my school’s non-major orchestra as a violinist, I like to draw and paint, and I’ve dabbled in some dance too. It’s important for me to keep a balance between all my interests, which also include working out (at the gym only - I am NOT athletic, unfortunately) and outdoor activities that don’t involve swimming since that’s something I can’t do. I know, shame. I’m really looking forward to exploring all my hobbies and interests in the context of a new culture. I am fluent in Spanish since I was raised in Mexico so Spain will be full of possibilities!</p>

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