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Your Physical & Mental Health Matters When Studying Abroad

November 10, 2021
by Nora Squires
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From battling the jet lag after the flight overseas and dealing with the emotions that arrive when touching down in a new country, it can all seem overwhelming at first. I chose to waste no time when it came to adopting healthy habits that would keep me feeling physically and mentally healthy while studying abroad!

When I first arrived in Madrid, my sleep habits were very much out of line for the first two weeks. I am not a night owl, but rather an early bird that likes to complete every task possible in the morning. This was a huge adjustment for me because Spaniards, contrary to myself, like to eat dinner late, stay up later and sleep in! Knowing myself, and that I operate better with an early bedtime and an early wake up time, I made it a priority to get back on my schedule with sleep podcasts and apps like Headspace. As a student, it is so important to get enough sleep in order to rejuvenate our minds and bodies and perform well. 

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One of my favorite ways to calm down and/or reset is to meditate. Meditation offers numerous benefits: presence, stress-reduction, patience, and self-awareness. Like I mentioned above, I utilize Headspace multiple times a week and reap the benefits in all these areas. As a student abroad, school and external forces can be overwhelming, but I also want to be as present as I can because each day is a new adventure. Taking a moment to breathe, noticing surroundings and expressing gratitude for the present moment are great skills to adopt no matter where you are or what you are feeling.  

Long before I arrived to study abroad in Madrid, I was already searching for a gym and a yoga studio! For me, it was critical to find a place that I could use as an escape to move my body and continue a healthy lifestyle. Thankfully, Spaniards are very active, so finding a gym, yoga studio, or any other trendy workout studio is not difficult to find! Abroad, I have more free time than I previously expected. This allows me to take time each day to work out, whether it’s a yoga class, an hour at the gym, or a long walk around the city. Participating in any of these activities is a great way to assist your mental health and of course, keep you physically healthy!

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My last little piece of advice is to journal! Every single day looks different. Writing something about each day is a great way to stay present. Of course, every day isn’t as exciting as maybe the one before, some days you are homesick, some days things don’t go as expected. I found that even on the worst days, spending a couple minutes to journal helps me manage how I’m feeling. But on the best days, like visiting new countries, making new friends, and trying new things, it’s great to document gratitude, memories, and the feelings derived from each moment. Scribble your thoughts, spill your emotions, highlight your happiness, all uncensored. Being abroad IS amazing, it IS a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it IS worth documenting.

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Everyone’s physical and mental health is important and when arriving in a new country it is vital to take extra good care of yourself! It’s not just a trip – it’s a good portion of your life. Because of this, you will have days you feel like you are in the mountains and days you feel like you are in the valleys. I’ve learned to adopt all these recommendations in order to enjoy the most of my journey abroad and show up to be the best version of myself each day. 

Figure out what works for you, but prioritize yourself – you matter!

Nora Squires is the Fall 2021 CEA MOJO Blogger in Madrid, Spain, and is currently studying at DePaul University.
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