Handling Your Wellbeing Abroad
7 February 2019
In her second Study Abroad Blog, Joanna tackles the subject of wellbeing and how to stay happy and healthy while abroad.
We’re all familiar with the concept of coping mechanisms. Some are healthier than others, and that can be kind of tough to admit when you’re halfway through a pint of ice cream after a particularly bad day.
Which is where I’m at, right now, by the way. I’d describe the carnage of my room, but I’m not really looking for pity. I’ll accept some sympathy, though, I could totally use some of that.
People like routine. We build our daily lives around the people we love, the lectures we hate, the same commutes, clothes, coffee shops - anything that becomes a permanent fixture in your life tends to bring comfort. So while at uni, you spend a couple years cultivating that perfect daily routine, the normalcy and familiarity of it all makes it easier to handle any oncoming disasters.
The most obvious consequence of leaving ‘home’ is being somewhere unfamiliar - so there goes the sense of normalcy that gets you through the day.
I’ve been in Dublin for about three months, and while I’ve made a pretty good emergency routine, there’s still a lot of irreplaceable London comforts that I still miss. Nonetheless, I’ve compiled a list of (pretty obvious, I’m not going to lie) ways to cope with the loss of home.
It’s blatantly obvious, but it still needs to be said. Sign up for a bunch of societies that lure you in with free goods at the freshers fair and actually go to at least one of their events in the beginning of term. If you like the vibes of the other members, stick around. If you don’t, I guess just forget the €2 membership fee and move on. Side note - I’ve been away from London for so long that the prices of UOL society memberships are now shocking.
You know it’s surprising how obvious this advice is, but even I’ve fallen into the trap of skipping two days of class because Irish rain makes attending a 9 am seem like an impossible task. But seriously, go to class. Go buy groceries. Go for a walk. Your grandmother would shout at you for not getting enough fresh air. Also, you might be somewhere nice and sunny so make the most of it before you’re confined to English weather for another year.
If you’re a girl, you’re probably familiar with ‘I was left unsupervised so I cut and dyed my hair’ levels of sadness. Changing your appearance or getting into a new hobby feels good and can be a nice distraction from feeling like everything else is falling apart. I am fully aware that I sound like a single mother having a mid-life crisis on her fashion blog right now, but seriously I have two boxes of hair dye waiting for a particularly stressful day. It doesn’t have to be so drastic and permanent, but maybe buying some new clothes or going somewhere new can make you feel more in control of your life.
It’s 2018 and technology makes it almost inexcusably easy to maintain your support system back home. Send your friends some fresh memes so they know you’re thinking about them. Send them a carefully written letter on fancy paper. Or, you know, call them drunk at 3 am.
If the easy stuff fails to help, make sure you’re familiar with the counselling services available to you at your host university. Prioritise your wellbeing, above anything, because quite honestly it’s more important than getting a First.