It’s Ok to Feel Not Ok: Prioritizing Mental Health

Woohyun Kwen headshot
Woohyun Kwen
December 4, 2023

This blog will consist of the most heavy, realistic, and honest topics from my experience studying abroad. While it is not exciting or fun like some of my other posts, I hope this post will provide a realistic, honest insight into some of the darker moments of my time in Salamanca.


For me, my first few weeks abroad were one of the best times of my life, but I was simultaneously very homesick. Living in a foreign country without my family and friends was difficult. And this is normal! It’s important to remember that your decision to study abroad all by yourself was very courageous, and feeling lonely and homesick is completely normal and valid. One of the ways I navigated this time was by giving myself some time to check in with my feelings. This was especially difficult at first because FOMO (fear of missing out) made me feel like I had to be constantly doing something with others. However, leaving some time for myself in the day really helped me navigate these feelings during my time abroad.

Unexpected Events

I realized that life does not always go as planned. I always knew unexpected events happen to all of us, but I was not expecting it to happen during my time abroad. On the most average, typical afternoon in Salamanca, I got a phone call notifying me of a death in the family. It was as if my entire world had collapsed and shattered into pieces. I knew we couldn’t control everything in life, but this was not something I had ever imagined.

Along with the emotional burden of this event, traveling unexpectedly for an extended period to be with my family during these times led me to miss the entirety of my midterms and many classes. While the IES Abroad Salamanca staff and all of my professors were very accommodating and understanding of my situation, it was difficult to manage both my emotions and the academic weight on top of everything. I felt exceptionally behind on all my work, and it felt like the world was moving ahead without me.

Prioritizing Mental Health

To be honest, I’m still unsure what would be my best advice for navigating low points or unexpected situations while studying abroad. For now, I would say asking for help, whether that is from family, friends, a professional, or anyone who can listen to you, is what worked for me. In fact, I asked for help from all of the people around me. While it’s not the perfect solution, and lots of time is required to heal from such events, I think it’s really important not to isolate yourself from everyone else and reach out for help because it will leave you feeling a bit better than being alone.

In addition, don’t push yourself. Don’t prioritize academics over your own well-being. It’s just not worth it. I learned this the hard way when I found myself stressing over making up midterms, minimizing my emotions, and pushing through them. This made me feel exponentially worse. When in doubt, ask your professors and work with the center staff to best navigate your study abroad journey in difficult times. My professors were very accommodating and understanding, and I wish I had reached out to them sooner.

Thanks for reading until the end, and I hope some insight into my own experiences abroad can help you navigate your journey as well! 

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Woohyun Kwen headshot

Woohyun Kwen

Hi! I am a junior studying Education Studies and Psychology on the pre-health track at Amherst College. In my free time, I love to paint scenery, go on long walks, and sing my heart out to my favorite pop songs.

2023 Fall
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Amherst College
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