When you’re in a new place, it’s more important than ever to be mentally and physically balanced so you’re able to experience everything to the fullest potential. Balance can be difficult to maintain with the stresses that come along with studying abroad – unfamiliar culture, disconnect from home, classes, travels, money worries, etc. The following are some of the things that I’ve found helpful in maintaining my balance while studying abroad!
1. Don’t completely break your normal routines
Obviously, your life abroad is going to be completely different than your life in the states; it’s supposed to be! This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stick with some of your everyday routines from home. They’re very important for your psyche, so if your body and mind are used to certain activities, don’t deprive them of those! Whether you’re a runner, a reader, a yogi, or an artist, keep these hobbies going when you’re abroad. Incorporating them into your abroad life will make your mind more at ease, in turn making you better able to absorb all of the new people, places, and information around you.
2. Take advantage of the local fresh markets
Depending on where you are studying, the local markets can provide some of the freshest, most delicious, healthiest food that is both cheap and local. What more could you ask for? Rather than eating out all of the time – which, I’ve learned, quickly drains your pocketbook – get some fresh ingredients from a local market and butter up the vendors for an awesome local recipe. Pocketbook crisis averted: you get a fresh, healthy, delicious meal for a fraction of the cost of eating out!
3. Call home every once in a while
Between the time difference, clashing schedules, travels, school, and all of the exciting things that go on when you’re abroad, it can be hard to stay in touch with the folks at home. Whether you’re homesick, loving life abroad, or anywhere in between, it’s important to talk to your loved ones at home regularly…but not too regularly.
You want in touch with home, but, at the same time, you don’t want to overdo it, spending all of your free time FaceTiming or Skyping people overseas. Updating your parents every once in awhile on what you’re up to will be good for their piece of mind and give you a healthy dose of home. Although it might be tough to organize, giving your friends a shout every now and then will also be beneficial; it will be fun to catch up and easier to transition back to normality when you return home.
4. Get close to the people you meet
The friends you make abroad, both in your study programs and during your travels, will be some of your dearest for life. They can also be very important to your mental well-being while you’re away from home. They are in the same boat as you – being brave, exploring on the world, etc. – and understand better than anyone what you’re going through when it comes to stresses abroad. Utilize your new friendships to – yes, I know this is cheesy, but I am from Wisconsin – talk about life, both the good and the bad. It will expand your friendship and help you out mentally, too.
5. Stay (or get) active!
As I mentioned earlier, sticking to your everyday routines is important to your mental health while you’re abroad, particularly when it comes to exercise. Although it might be difficult to fit into your new schedule, cutting out your regular physical activity would throw off your body and your mind, something you definitely don’t want. At home I regularly attend yoga, and although the pasta and wine in Italy don’t necessarily complement yoga, I still make it a point to get out my mat a couple of times a week, and I always feel more balanced after, physically and mentally.
If you’re not the “physical activity” type, I’m not here to lecture you. However, there’s so much to explore when you’re abroad, and the last thing you’re going to want to have when you get home are regrets about what you didn’t do. We tend to have an exploring binge when we get to a new place and often times forget that there is always something new to be explored. So, instead of watching Netflix or taking another nap, get outside, take a long walk, and kill two birds with one stone – physical activity and exploring your city!
Emma Lamke is the Spring '15 CEA MOJO Blogger in Florence, Italy. She is currently a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
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