Wednesday, 10 June 2020

How to Overcome the Emotional Challenges of Studying Abroad

Rodrigo shares his experience and advice for navigating the challenges of studying abroad.


- Rodrigo Aviles


Studying abroad was an amazing experience. Probably one of the best decisions I made for myself. However, it didn’t come without challenges.

I went to an international university in London as an international student. At most there were 5 people from the UK in my class, so everyone I met was away from their home countries. Therefore, I got the opportunity to experience first-hand the following challenges of studying abroad.

Unmet Expectations
It is normal to wonder how things are going to be like at university; classes, professors, people. But as you probably know by now, things don’t always go as expected. Many things are out of your control. How demanding classes are, how well you get along with your roommate, etc. When these things pile up, your mind can start playing tricks on you. What if I chose the wrong country? What if this career is not for me? What if I wasn’t ready?

As gloomy as those thoughts may seem, they are really helpful to do some self-reflection. Which is key for your development as a person, so don’t be afraid of them. Learning how to manage expectations is a great skill that will carryover throughout your life. It can only make you stronger and more emotional resilient. Here are two tips to do so.

1. Do your research.
During your interview process you are going to get the chance to ask questions. Take that opportunity. Ask about the problems students usually go through. What hardships can you expect as a freshman. What is the culture is like. Ask anything that comes to your mind. You won’t regret it, and you may even impress the recruiter too by showing that you are engaged and unafraid to ask questions. 

2. Expect Hard Times
This one applies for everything in life. No matter what stage in your life you are in. You will experience at the very least a sad moment. “University was supposed to be one of the best stages of my life?” It is, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t going to come with its struggles. It is easier to navigate through hardship when you accept that is normal and expect it to come at some point.

Pressure
This one is huge for college students and even more for international students. Your parents may have sent you there to study, get an internship and eventually a job. So you try to make it a priority. But you also have people asking you to go out, professors’ pressuring you with deadlines. It can be overwhelming. This is where you get better at making decisions.

My biggest mistake was thinking that grades were the main and only thing. So, my social life suffered a bit. But quickly I realized that life is not only about one thing, it is about making everything work together. Going out to a party, hanging out with friends, are both just as important. So, don’t feel bad for prioritizing your social life from time to time because it can be of huge help for your mental health. Aim for balance.

Feeling Alone
It is likely that when you move to another country you will feel alone at some point. It was my first time living outside my hometown and even though I thought I was going to be just fine; I struggled a bit. A month into my first year I was getting a bit depressed and I thought it was weird how everyone seemed to be doing so good. So, I started to feel lonely and out of place. My father used to tell me that if I ever needed to cry, I should do it in my room, where no one could see it. So, in public I made an effort to look as if everything was ok, but it wasn’t helping.

The experience that emotionally liberated me was a conversation I had with my best friend a couple of months into the term. As soon as I started talk him, I broke in tears and vented for almost 2 hours. I felt so much better not only because I got to vent, but because talking to someone validated my emotions and made me realize that I am not the only one going through this, most of my close friends were on the same boat. We were all so afraid to seem vulnerable. And I know it is hard to open up and rely on your friends sometime. It takes courage, and just like everything that does, it is worth it. 

You’d be amazed by the power of the emotional comfort a friend can provide. So, don’t be afraid to ask your friends about their emotions and be honest about yours.

For more information and advice about looking after your mental wellbeing at university, click here

Hi, I'm Rodrigo. I did my BBA at an international university in London. I decided to contribute to Student Minds because I've struggled with mental health issues, and I have seen the people I love go through similar experiences. If I am sure of one thing is that we need to talk more about our struggles in order to come out stronger. 

No comments:

Post a comment