Wednesday 4 October 2017

5 simple ways to minimise anxiety when travelling abroad alone

Charlotte blogs about ways you can reduce anxiety during a year abroad. 

- Charlotte Day

More and more students are enrolling on university courses which include a year abroad – whether that’s a BA French and German, or an BSc Physics. Summer work in a foreign country is also gaining in popularity with jobs such as au pairing in Spain being just an online application away. Although visiting a foreign nation on your own can be a great way to see more of the world, improve foreign language skills, and aid personal development, it can be a pretty tough experience for those who suffer from anxiety. The prospect of finding yourself in a vulnerable, uncomfortable or compromising situation with no friends or family around us for reassurance can be all too daunting.

Here are 5 simple ways to help try to tackle those anxious feelings:

1. Spend some time researching your destination before you leave.

In the comfort of your own home, research the location where you will be staying. Finding out information such as where the local supermarket, caf├ęs and police station are will help to minimise the uncertainty and stress of the first few days. Also, be sure to have a look over the local laws and customs of your destination to avoid getting into any difficult, yet avoidable, situations – some places have some laws that may seem rather odd to us!

2. Utilise the wonders that are FaceTime and Skype.

Being able to see and hear the familiar face of a friend or family member will certainly help to take your mind off any feelings of loneliness. Even if it’s just a quick 5-minute chat to someone when you’re feeling a bit low, it will likely put you in a positive mind set for the rest of the day.

3. Try not to be afraid of making new friends.

Wherever you’re visiting, there are likely to be other people your age there too. Although perhaps a little easier said than done, you could head to a local bar and try to strike up conversation with some locals. Do be careful if you’re going out alone, and follow the FCO’s recommendations for travelling alone at all times. You may even encounter somebody else visiting the area who is in the same situation as you – many people meet life-long friends whilst travelling! Plus, staying with a group of people makes you less vulnerable to danger than wandering around alone.

4. If you don’t speak the local language fluently, take a phrase book with you.

A phrase book is invaluable for most travellers and will certainly help tackle any anxiety about not being able to be understood. Most phrase books tell you how to pronounce the words and some also have pictures of amenities such as hospitals so you don’t even have to attempt to make yourself understood linguistically – you can just point at where you need directions to!

5. Get enough sleep!

The adrenaline of being in a foreign location can make you feel like you don’t need much sleep, but it’s so important to try to get at least 8 hours a night from day 1. Even if you feel jet-lagged for the first few days, try to adjust to the time zone and get into a regular sleep pattern – tiredness will intensify your stress levels. Take a good book with you to read before bed, it will calm you down and help send you to sleep.

Visiting new places on our own when you suffer from anxiety can be an intense experience, but these simple tricks will help you make the most out of your time away. Happy travelling!

For our Student Minds guide to a Year Abroad for yourself or a friend, click here.

Hey, I'm Charlotte and I'm a second year student at Univeristy College London. I'm writing for Student Minds to open up the conversation and raise awareness about mental health.

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