Mental Health and Year Abroad – What Worked For Me

I remember being scared of handling my mental health whilst abroad and putting in loads of contingency plans and coping mechanisms were packed firmly in my suitcase.

I don’t think I even used half of them.

That’s not to say the road from start to finish went by without any bumps – trust me I had more than my fair share.

 

I’ve never been one for having a widespread of close-knit friends but in someways I think this has worked in my favour (more about this later on). However this also meant I got lonely a lot, which everyone knows just makes the depression that much harder to deal with sometimes.

Then there were times when I had my worst fears come to life. I failed a couple of exams along the way (passed the year mind you but I still failed in a sense) and took those like a bullet to the gut. I cried in class a few time – it happens, it’s how you deal with the aftermath that people remember – and it really tested me sometimes as I often felt suicidal whilst opening the floodgates.

Tip: If you feel suicidal in class and think you are capable of getting home. Do it. Make an excuse, go home, curl up with some TV or music or a book and ride it out. It will seem less intense once you have calmed down and you can start talking yourself through it rationally.

I also made sure I kept an open and honest communication back home even with all of the stuff going on back there – regardless of how independent or mature you are, they are still your family (or your friends if you feel they can help more). I don’t think I could have gotten through most of my year without my mum and sometimes it was just having another person to speak to who spoke the same language.

Sungkyunkwan University’s Korean Program is intense. But it also builds so much character and actually having classes from 9am – 3pm meant I wasn’t sat on my bum twiddling my thumbs half the time. I never ran out of stuff to do or things that had to be done for the next day. Keeping busy and throwing yourself into whatever you are doing whilst studying abroad means you have little extra time to feel as homesick or depressed as you would if you had nothing but time on your hands (ah the luxury).

Take care of yourself. Find a routine. I sort of got lost in this with everything that went on whilst abroad (its busier than you think) but if you feel you need a routine then take time to make one. I always knew I had to get up early for school so I showered in the evening and for me water relaxes so it killed 2 birds with 1 stone ^^ I like coffee and Korea sells cold coffees sooo cheap, so I made sure I got them in so I could have 1 a day after school like a reward for going in that day. Any money I had left over from the budget that week was saved for Friday where I could go out and do whatever … but only if I had gone into school to the best of my ability.

(Turns out the deportation threat really helps one’s attendance :O).

Round Up

  1. Fears – Figure out ways to keep yourself safe and react to them safely if you have to face them whilst abroad.
  2. Support – Whether its an online group, family or friends, make sure you have a network or relationship in place that can take the strain if things go belly up but also talk to them about the positives – it helps if they need to give you a talking to.
  3. Stay Safe – If you feel unsafe at any point make sure you get somewhere you feel safe, lock up your sharp stuff if you need to, and ride it out till you feel a bit more rational. Chances are things are not as bad as they seem.
  4. Keep Busy – Keep up with classes and studies but also find places to go and things you want to do outside of learning. The more you have to do and think about the less able your brain is to think up stupid stuff telling you not to do it all.
  5. Routine – Build a routine around things you can do whilst over there and include some treats and things you like to do as well as the must haves like hygiene and food.

For information on preparing for your Year Abroad including a mental health checklist please follow the link to my previous post.

If you have any comments, questions or concerns please feel free to leave a comment in the section below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. If you have a friend or child who you think would benefit from this information please pass it on. I hope this information can help others in this position the way the skills helped me.

~Ruthie

 

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