Studying abroad, isn’t that supposed to be the absolute time of your life? Well, yes, it is – it’s exciting, challenging and super fun to be at university in another country. Meeting lovely people from all over the world, basking in the sun every day and taking amazing trips to places I never dreamed I’d ever visit (Fiji anyone?) were just some of the highlights which made my year studying in Brisbane, Australia super-special and downright life-changing. However, studying in another country, potentially on the other side of the world or perhaps one which speaks a totally different language, is no mean feat. On top of this, when things may not go to plan, you may feel all alone and a bit scared. In fact, it’s perfectly normal to want to get on the next flight home at any point in your time abroad!
Saying this, I truly believe studying abroad will be the most amazing six months or year of your life, but you do need to be prepared for when it may all get a little bit wobbly. So, here’s a small bit of advice for when you’re feeling a bit down from a girl who’s been there.
- Think about why you decided to study abroad in the first place
People study abroad for various different reasons, whether that’s to learn a language, travel to new places or simply to have a completely new experience in a different country. I know for me personally, it was to challenge and push myself to do something completely out of my comfort zone – so when times would get rough and I started to feel those homesick twinges, I would consider it all part of the process. Every time I had a mini breakdown over the stresses of studying abroad (money, homesickness, uni stress) it was comforting to think that even though I was upset for a day or so, the experience was ultimately making me stronger and helping me grow as a person.
- Get involved
By far the best thing I did when I was abroad was join my college’s touch football team in the third or fourth week of my year abroad. When you’re feeling homesick, often the best pick-me-up is a great group of mates who can take your mind off it. It was also awesome once again to push myself and try something new – for some context, in Sheffield I coach a cheerleading squad so rugby was a bit of a plot twist for me! However, if sport isn’t your thing, there’s tons of other activities you can get involved in: a lot of universities host get-togethers and mixers for international students where you can meet like-minded people from all over the world. If you’re struggling to find ways to get involved on campus, you could look for clubs and societies in the local community, or even look into local volunteering schemes to fill your time and do something rewarding.
- Have something to look forward to
Anybody who has studied abroad will tell you that one of the greatest parts of studying abroad is the travelling you get to do in and around your new country. By far my favourite way to beat homesickness while abroad was to have an amazing trip to look forward to and make you realise how lucky you are to be studying abroad. The trip doesn’t even have to be huge or expensive – sometimes my favourite place to travel to was the nearby beach, which was $5 by shuttle bus yet always made me feel re-energised and gave me a little bit of a boost. Just having something to look forward to on a weekend can make a world of difference to your mood.
- Speak to someone
If none of these steps work and you still feel like being abroad is getting you down, have a chat about it with someone you trust. Whether that be a trusted friend or family member, your personal tutor or even a member of the Global Opps team, getting your issues off your chest and talking over your situation rationally with someone else will make you feel better almost every time – a problem shared is truly a problem halved! However, do try and avoid long skype calls with your parents or friends at home at this time. I personally found this would sometimes make me feel worse and even more homesick! It is obviously super important to keep in touch with everyone at home but I’d advise to not let this distract from your life in your new country and to be proactive in trying to spend time with new friends when abroad. Of course, when I talk about feeling down, I’m only referring to short periods of homesickness or low mood. If you are feeling low for long periods of time, it would be best to talk confidentially with your doctor.
Although I talk a lot about feeling down in this article, if you’re about to go out on your year abroad this year, please don’t be put off at all! I still maintain that your year will be totally incredible and even if there are tough times, remember it’s all part of the process. Go with the flow and keep going – it will all be great! 🙂