Studying abroad is a privilege to travel, explore diverse cultures, and learn a new language, but your mental health should be your number one priority. It can be so disappointing when your mental health gets in the way while studying abroad or enjoying the trip.
While studying abroad students experience acculturation, which is the process of adopting the cultural traits or social patterns of another group. It is not uncommon for acculturation to be associated with acculturative stress, or more commonly known as culture shock. Acculturative stress is associated with psychological changes and behavioral alterations in an individual while adjusting to another culture that is different from one's own.
Individuals differ greatly in the degree in which acculturation affects them, many might not experience at all. A few signs and symptoms could be:
Feeling increased anxiety and sadness; Easily irritable, Excessive fear, Excessive amount of sleep.
Feeling lonely or social isolation; Homesickness or withdrawal, Compulsive eating and/or drinking.
Feeling uncomfortable and helpless; Excessive need for cleanliness.
Rejecting the new culture and the people of host country; Refusal to learn the language and culture, Desire for dependence on the residence of one's own nationality.
These symptoms of culture shock could last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. This is completely normal for a study abroad experience. The key to tackling these is just to push through — immerse yourself in the culture, get to know the locals, learn the gestures, languages and public transportation schedules. If you’re struggling with maintaining mental health while studying abroad, please know that you’re not alone. Try to seek help.
It will get easier every time you go outside if you’re actively learning to deal with it. It’s not normal, however, to experience these symptoms longer than a month or two. If you do, you might be developing some form of depression or anxiety.
For more information and assistance on the study abroad process and scholarships, pick up a study abroad consultation form with us.