Mental Health (while traveling internationally)
You are encouraged to be vigilant about your mental and emotional health while abroad. Suggestions for nurturing your mental health while traveling and studying off-campus include:
- Be aware of the signs of culture shock so that you can identify symptoms in yourself.
- Build supportive relationships with the people in your group.
- Talk openly with others about how you are feeling, and ask for help when you need it.
- When tensions arise with others, communicate openly and practice good listening skills.
- Be intentional about the use of healthy coping skills, such as exercise, laughter, reading, relaxation, talking with others, artistic expression, listening to music, or prayer—figure out what has worked well for you to reduce stress in the past, and return to those copings skills.
- Allow your mind to dwell on the good things in your experience abroad and in the people with whom you are spending your time.
- Get enough sleep and eat regularly—be consistent in the timing of these routines.
- Avoid the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other substances that can reduce healthy coping abilities.
- Maintain consistent spiritual practices.
- Consider writing in a journal, with a focus in your writing on identifying your feelings, making helpful adjustments in your thinking, and problem-solving.
- If applicable, stay consistent with prescribed mood medications.
For some, levels of emotional distress might go beyond the typical experiences of culture shock. If you find yourself in need of additional resources to manage your mental health, talk with your program director. Some of our off-campus sites have resources for on-site psychological counseling in English. These services are provided on a pay as you go basis and are the responsibility of the student.
If you know ahead of time that you are susceptible to emotional strain while abroad, consider talking with a counselor at the Broene Counseling Center prior to your departure. You are also advised to keep your program director informed of any struggles, and to work with them ahead of time to identify mental health resources at your off-campus site if needed. Referrals for mental health services can be sought through the US Embassy or through local organizations such as universities or churches.