If you talk to anyone who studied abroad about their experience you will probably hear the following:
-It was amazing/the best time of my life.
-I was able to travel to so many cool places.
-I made so many great friends.
-The classes were easy and I had fun every night!
-You HAVE to go!
But..what you won’t hear in the list of awesomeness are any times they felt bummed out on study abroad. They neglect to mention the few moments they felt a little down or slightly unhappy.
As a result, students are sort of thrown off when they start feeling a little bummed. They might think why am I lonely/sad/depressed/homesick when I’m having this amazing experience?? Why am I being such a debbie downer when everyone else is having the time of their lives?
I’m writing this post so students know that feeling a little down sometimes on study abroad is totally normal! Luckily my program gave us a chart explaining this during orientation so I was aware that the average person experiences a range of highs and lows on study abroad. Adjusting to a new place and being away from friends and family can be hard and although 99.9% of your days are amazing every once and awhile you can feel a little bummed.
So, what can you do about it? First of all, your program most likely has resources set up for students who are having trouble adjusting. If you ever feel like your sadness escalates beyond just a few isolated moments definitely reach out to your program. You won’t be the only person doing so and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Your program is there to help you and ensure that you have the best experience possible. Getting back on track might be as simple as hearing what has worked for other students in the past.
If you don’t think you want to go that route or you are just experiencing occasional blues, then you can probably fix it yourself. Step one, find your triggers. Ask yourself the following questions:
Are You Constantly Bbming/Skyping/Texting/Facebook Chatting With People Back Home?
It’s great to stay connected to friends and family back home but don’t let it stop you from building relationships with the people you are actually with. Let’s say that you missed your bus, locked yourself out of your apartment, said something stupid to your crush, or some other annoying event happened. Instead of texting your BFF in the States to vent about it, think about maybe venting to a friend from the program. Maybe you’re not at that point with each other yet, but that is how people become friends. Humans bond by exchanging and sharing information. If you’re not opening up to people in your program and relying on people who are not physically there to support you then you could be causing some of your own distress. Your friend back home can’t get gelato with you to cheer you up if you are having a bad day but that girl who sits next to you in class could!
Along With That, Are You Always On Your Phone Or Computer When You Are With Other People?
Obviously as college students we are always on our phones and computers. They’re practically glued to our hands and it’s ridiculous to suggest not texting/skyping/facebook chatting. Just make sure that you aren’t doing it to the point that you are not truly taking in the experience. If it’s a Thursday night and you’re Facebook stalking people back in college you’re wasting your time. A photo album of red solo cups and the same three people in eight different poses is not going to be nearly as awesome as what you would experience if you left your apartment right then. Get off the computer and go do something. Same thing goes if you’re out at a bar or club with your friends and you’re drunk texting some guy/girl from college. Put down the phone and go talk to someone you can actually hookup with that night. Duh. That kid you’re texting will still be there when you get back. Study abroad flies by and since no one dates anymore he or she will most likely still be single. Plus, its rude to always be on your phone. We all know that yet we do it anyways. Woops.
Do You Honestly Like The People You Hang Out With?
The first few weeks of study abroad are a little like freshman year of college. Everyone is excited, things can get a little superficial, and anytime you go anywhere you have to roll 13 deep. Seriously, you end up going out to dinner with a huge group of people and thus can’t really get to know anyone that well. Unfortunately, this stage is unavoidable. The good thing is that you can use this time to shop around and see who you really mesh with best. You don’t have to spend the whole semester with people you don’t really gel with just because they are your suitemate, friend of your roommate, person who went to your school etc. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing and branch away from the group. Making a good friend is 100x better than knowing 8 people at a superficial level. Yeah you all might party together and travel together, but if your friendship doesn’t come close to the ones you have back home then step one is to try to find something more legit. Many people make genuine, lasting friendships on study abroad so its worth trying to switch things up. Think about joining a club, playing a sport, or just generally putting yourself out there.
Have You Gained Weight? Do You Not Work Out Anymore And You Used To Work Out On A Consistent Basis In School?
Unless you have the self-control of a monk, you will gain weight on study abroad. It’s inevitable. The food, the drinking, the lack of working out, the traveling, I could go on and on. In the long run, a weight gain of 5-10 pounds is totally worth it! You are having the time of your life and living every day to the fullest is totally part of the experience. In the short run, the extra poundage could be making you feel a little blue. Also, if you are used to working out on a consistent basis, than not working out for a long period of time could affect your mood. You are no longer releasing those endorphins on a daily basis. The fix? You don’t necessarily have to start working out again but do small things to lift your mood. Walk to class instead of taking the bus, don’t go out to eat every night, make your own lunch or choose a healthier option when you can. Overall, weight gain blues are totally fixable and kind of just something you have to get over. It happens to everyone. Just pack your fat jeans and make sure you do some exercising when you can. You’ll handle it when you’re back at your home school.
What do you think about the study abroad blues? Do they exist? How can you combat them?