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Coping Skills for Studying Abroad

 

When preparing to go abroad, it might be helpful to think of previous transitions in your life. Sometimes the newness of a situation can feel overwhelming and your emotional response may feel very intense and perhaps even scary. Hence, to remember that in the past you have lived through similar experiences and that in spite of your initial reaction you were able to adjust eventually, can be comforting. Also, it may be better to share your reactions with someone in spite of your possible worry that no-one would understand. Chances are, keeping a fear locked up inside yourself, it grows in intensity and becomes pervasive. To find a way to express your concerns/reactions to someone, provides relief and possibly a new perspective. Remind yourself that your thoughts and feelings are important whether they are shared by others or not. Allow yourself to 'listen' to your feelings/thoughts/reactions rather than pushing them down or medicating yourself with alcohol, drugs, food, etc. You might gain insights which may lead to different ways of dealing with your experience. Going abroad is not only a chance to learn about a new culture, it also provides the opportunity to get to know yourself better.

Remember it is generally helpful to:

  1. 'Acknowledge' your thoughts, feelings, reactions (at least internally) without making a judgment. e.g. I am really feeling sad; I am angry, scared; I am feeling inadequate, etc.
  2. 'Ask 'what might be going on for me?' 'What does this situation remind me of?' Invite your thoughts to go wherever they want to in order to get as much awareness/insight as possible. Sometimes a person experiences strong emotions that seem like an overreaction; it might be possible that the present circumstances provoke an emotional memory of a previously stressful/painful situation. To recognize this connection might allow you to have a better understanding of your present situation. If you worry about something excessively (obsess) and/or engage in compulsive obsessing, etc. what might be the real worry, fear...that gets masked by your conscious, obsessional thoughts?
  3. Reassure yourself that whatever you think or feel it is alright even if it is negative; there is a difference between thinking and feeling something and acting it out which may not be healthy, constructive or acceptable. Thoughts/feelings do NOT equal actions. Ask yourself, given your feelings/thoughts, what would be helpful right now? What might you be able to do to comfort yourself and/or to deal with the situation constructively.
  4. Remember previous adjustments; e.g., when you first moved away from home...imagine what you felt like when you were, for the first time alone in your room, had to face a day on your own. Note your feelings, thoughts...how did you deal with it, what was comforting to you?
  5. How do you generally deal with stress? What else could you do to soothe/take care of yourself? (e.g., make a list of activities)
  6. Do you ever use drugs, alcohol, or food to help yourself 'feel better?' If so, what could you do instead?

Tips for mental health on a daily basis:

  1. Exercise regularly.
  2. Pay attention to your nutrition, eat regularly.
  3. Interact/have contact with a person.
  4. Learn/try something new.
  5. Do something nice for yourself, do something nice for someone else, write into a journal.

In regards to alcohol use, if you choose to drink, it is wise to:

  • set a limit for yourself before you start drinking, e.g., "I'll have no more than two 8 oz. of beer."
  • pace yourself, drink slowly, have a non-alcoholic beverage in between drinks.

If you choose not to drink, it might be easier to let your host family/friends know ahead of time; if you feel uncomfortable with sharing the real reason, it is perfectly alright to think of a less vulnerable explanation, e.g., 'due to a medical' condition...

Written by Edel Davenport, M.S., L.P.C., Staff Counselor at University of Oregon Counseling and Testing Center

When preparing to go abroad, it might be helpful to think of previous transitions in your life. Sometimes the newness of a situation can feel overwhelming and your emotional response may feel very intense and perhaps even scary. Hence, to remember that in the past you have lived through similar experiences and that in spite of your initial reaction you were able to adjust eventually, can be comforting. Also, it may be better to share your reactions with someone in spite of your possible worry that no-one would understand. Chances are, keeping a fear locked up inside yourself, it grows in intensity and becomes pervasive. To find a way to express your concerns/reactions to someone, provides relief and possibly a new perspective. Remind yourself that your thoughts and feelings are important whether they are shared by others or not. Allow yourself to 'listen' to your feelings/thoughts/reactions rather than pushing them down or medicating yourself with alcohol, drugs, food, etc. You might gain insights which may lead to different ways of dealing with your experience. Going abroad is not only a chance to learn about a new culture, it also provides the opportunity to get to know yourself better.

Remember it is generally helpful to:

  1. 'Acknowledge' your thoughts, feelings, reactions (at least internally) without making a judgment. e.g. I am really feeling sad; I am angry, scared; I am feeling inadequate, etc.
  2. 'Ask 'what might be going on for me?' 'What does this situation remind me of?' Invite your thoughts to go wherever they want to in order to get as much awareness/insight as possible. Sometimes a person experiences strong emotions that seem like an overreaction; it might be possible that the present circumstances provoke an emotional memory of a previously stressful/painful situation. To recognize this connection might allow you to have a better understanding of your present situation. If you worry about something excessively (obsess) and/or engage in compulsive obsessing, etc. what might be the real worry, fear...that gets masked by your conscious, obsessional thoughts?
  3. Reassure yourself that whatever you think or feel it is alright even if it is negative; there is a difference between thinking and feeling something and acting it out which may not be healthy, constructive or acceptable. Thoughts/feelings do NOT equal actions. Ask yourself, given your feelings/thoughts, what would be helpful right now? What might you be able to do to comfort yourself and/or to deal with the situation constructively.
  4. Remember previous adjustments; e.g., when you first moved away from home...imagine what you felt like when you were, for the first time alone in your room, had to face a day on your own. Note your feelings, thoughts...how did you deal with it, what was comforting to you?
  5. How do you generally deal with stress? What else could you do to soothe/take care of yourself? (e.g., make a list of activities)
  6. Do you ever use drugs, alcohol, or food to help yourself 'feel better?' If so, what could you do instead?

Tips for mental health on a daily basis:

  1. Exercise regularly.
  2. Pay attention to your nutrition, eat regularly.
  3. Interact/have contact with a person.
  4. Learn/try something new.
  5. Do something nice for yourself, do something nice for someone else, write into a journal.

In regards to alcohol use, if you choose to drink, it is wise to:

  • set a limit for yourself before you start drinking, e.g., "I'll have no more than two 8 oz. of beer."
  • pace yourself, drink slowly, have a non-alcoholic beverage in between drinks.

If you choose not to drink, it might be easier to let your host family/friends know ahead of time; if you feel uncomfortable with sharing the real reason, it is perfectly alright to think of a less vulnerable explanation, e.g., 'due to a medical' condition...

Written by Edel Davenport, M.S., L.P.C., Staff Counselor at University of Oregon Counseling and Testing Center