Monday 2 December 2019

But what if...? Advice to Manage Anxieties About Your Year Abroad

Hannah shares four tips for managing anxieties about, and making the most of, your year studying abroad.
- Hannah

The idea of studying abroad filled my head with all of the worst-case possible scenarios; I struggled and continually questioned whether the whole year would be a disaster. Everyone I had spoken to said that their year abroad was the best in their lives but all I could think was ‘but what if…?’. These ‘What if’s’ nearly caused me to miss out on my fantastic year in the Netherlands, so today I want to share some of the anxieties that I experienced and how I looked after my wellbeing to hopefully reassure you on your decision too. 

But what if I miss home?
My main worry when applying for my study abroad year was that I was going to miss my family – this isn’t a bad thing, this is amazing. Missing home shows how you must have a great support system and people around you that you are going to miss. I’m not going to lie; I did miss my family. Still, it made me appreciate them a lot, plus I had so many visitors whilst in the Netherlands that it made it so much easier. 

But what if I don’t make any friends? 
Are you a scary man-eating monster? No! I assure you that you can and you will make friends. It might seem terrifying at first, but all you have to do is say hello, and if people shut you down, don’t worry as there are plenty more people out there to meet. Join societies and clubs in and outside of the university. All exchange students are in the same position as you, even if they don’t show it. If you go on socials that take you off-campus, I highly recommend that you Stick With Your Mates to ensure you keep yourself safe when experiencing a new country.

But a year is so long. What if people forget about me? 
A year seems like a long time. This year is a small segment out of your whole life, and it will be worth every moment. It’s surprising how fast time flies when you’re experiencing a new culture. Plus, its rarely ever a whole year - more like ten months. Don’t be worried about people forgetting you, worry about people being jealous of your fantastic experience! I’d highly recommend you share and document your time away; the Travel Aware Instagram is a great place to get inspiration for your posts. Plus, if you ever feel sad, you can look at all of the amazing memories you’ve made and see how far you’ve come.

But what if I can’t get access to my medication? 
One thing you can’t be too relaxed about is if you take medicine because different laws and customs vary all over the world. Travel Aware keep up to date with 225 countries’ laws and customs. They can also send you email updates if anything changes. Easy! On the same note, don’t forget your insurance and vaccinations. 

I hope I have helped to debunk a couple of your worries. A year abroad is a scary prospect even for those who do not usually struggle with their mental health, and you’re doing the right thing by researching before you apply. From my experience, I would encourage you to think carefully how you could manage any risks or worries, and have a fantastic time away.

You can find advice about looking after your wellbeing while studying on a year abroad here

Hi! My name is Hannah and I am a Drama student at The University of Exeter. I'm obsessed with all things travel-related. I love exploring new places and experiencing the culture.  I’m also living my life with an old pal, anxiety - you may have heard of it? I know many of us are familiar with it, and sharing my experience of anxiety is very important to me. I also share my highs and lows of travel on my Instagram

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