During each stage of the study abroad process, managing your mental health is important. Review this resource to develop a checklist for addressing your mental health needs, understand key study abroad stressors, and learn about common travel myths.
Acculturation stress emerges from conflicts when individuals must adjust to a new culture of the host society. Some of the significant forms of acculturation stress stem from (1) difficulties assimilating to host country’s norms, (2) language barriers, and (3) perception of your identities in host country.
Another source of stress when traveling abroad is homesickness. Homesickness is defined as a longing for one’s home during a period of absence, often including missing family members, friends, pets, home cooked meals, etc. Even the disruption of daily routines can result in homesickness.
Traveling abroad can amplify pre-existing mental health concerns due to acculturation and homesickness stressors. When adjusting to your new environment, heightened stress is especially common during the first few weeks of travel.
False! Homesickness and acculturation stress can affect even the most experienced travelers on the shortest of trips. Even if you have never dealt with mental health concerns, the unique experience of traveling abroad may trigger its development.
Recognize that there will be stressful moments throughout your experience, such as the effects of time zone changes, homesickness, and new environment adjustments. Culture shock is not a psychological disorder but a developmental phase that is expected when one adjusts in a cross-cultural context.
While traveling has many benefits, it is important to remember that it should not be used as escapism or a “new country, new me” mentality. Any pre-existing mental health concerns will follow you.
False! Having a particular mental health diagnosis does not mean that your experiences will be less enjoyable. Still, it does mean that you need to be proactive with travel planning to get the most out of the experience while meeting your mental health needs.