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Practices that Help with Mental Health & Wellbeing Abroad

November 10, 2023
by Alexa Doyle

Daily Practices that Help with Homesickness and Culture Shock 

Moving to a new country to study abroad can feel incredibly daunting, and upon arrival, you may feel the effects of homesickness and/or cultural adjustment. First, this is normal, and these feelings will come and go. While it may feel uncomfortable, know you’re not alone. 

a river

A morning run on the Arno River, which runs through Florence.

As a U.S. student studying abroad in Florence, I have experienced feelings of homesickness and culture shock but also used these four accessible practices to limit their effects: 

1. Journal

First, and what has helped me the most, journal! Journaling is a practice I incorporated into my life for the past few years, but I have relied on it more and more while abroad. Journaling is a healthy way to release emotions and process events. Most days, I simply write down what I did that day and upcoming events. Even a little journaling goes a long way, and I always feel better after writing. It’s also a great keepsake after studying abroad and can help you remember little day-to-day moments. 

a journal on a park bench

Journaling in the Piazza Massimo D'Azeglio neighborhood.

2. Keep Up with Your Hobbies

Secondly, keep up with your hobbies you enjoy doing at home. As an avid runner, I knew that running was a practice I wanted to continue while abroad. Carving out time for myself every morning to run is extremely helpful for my mental health and wellbeing and even introduced me to iconic landmarks and unique parts of Florence during quieter hours. On the other side of the Arno River, Florence is a lot quieter, and full of family-run shops and restaurants.

The Duomo building in Florence, Italy.

A quiet morning at one of Florence's most famous landmarks, the Duomo, during my run.

Plus, I love to cook, and my roommates and I found ways to make some delicious Italian meals and snacks at home! We copied dishes with melon and prosciutto, bruschetta, and mini caprese bites.

bowls of snack food on a glass table

Italian aperitivo at home!

3. Pick a Familiar Place

Thirdly, pick a place of familiarity! I love a morning cup of coffee or a quick afternoon smoothie, and finding a delicious coffee shop or café is an excellent way to have a place I can count on knowing in the city.

a cappuccino cup with a foam heart

Cappuccino from Ditta Artigianale, a neighborhood café.

I personally love Shake Café, a healthy café, and Ditta Artigianale, a go-to place for some American staples like salmon and lox. Finding a restaurant or café, library, or park you can count on going to is a tremendous reassurance. It’s also a great way to have some familiar faces of people not in your CEA CAPA study abroad program and an excellent way to practice your host country's language! 

a yellow smoothie

Smoothie from Shake Café on my way to class on Via del Corso.

4. Explore

Lastly, explore! You’re in a new country, so enjoy all its differences and unique offerings. Sometimes, the best way to deal with cultural adjustment is to jump right in! I love venturing around narrow stone streets and coming across unique stores. For example, walking around and finding the Scuola del Cuoio is a highlight of my time here. (It's an Italian leather school with artisan works and smaller items as well. Free gold engravings are available!) Keep the curiosity that brought you to your study abroad program! 

a hallway filled with glass cabinets

Scuola del Cuoio in Florence.

Melrose Vintage is another popular spot amongst CEA CAPA students and thrift lovers. It's a huge vintage shop with unique items.

a vintage store

Melrose Vintage.

Alexa Doyle is the Content Creator - Photographer in Florence, Italy, and is currently studying at Tulane University.
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