Mental and physical health should be a priority wherever you are. It can be beyond easy to lose sight of your overall health when you are living out your dream in a foreign country. Take it from someone who has been living in Paris for months, ensuring you are in good health is essential to having a successful semester abroad. Whether physical or mental, here are my best tips for maintaining your health while abroad:
- Be Prepared for Struggles While Adjusting. This will not apply to everyone, but better safe than sorry! Sometimes, we can get caught up in the excitement and busyness of preparing to go abroad that we do not consider how difficult it may be to adjust to living in a foreign country for the first time. Personally, this idea never even crossed my mind. It is important to understand how normal and common it is to face obstacles throughout your semester abroad and not let them deter you from enjoying your time! Knowing the possible emotions when you touch down in your destination will prevent you from being overwhelmed.
- Get Out of Your Apartment. Everyone gets homesick or feels down in the dumps sometimes, even in their dream city. While this is completely normal, it is crucial that you get out of your apartment and go explore! Learning your area will make it feel like home. Finding your favorite shops and spots is a comfort that can relieve any unease. Get out and do some sightseeing, this can be a great distraction from any homesickness and also helps you turn your mood from negative to positive!
- Create an Exercise Routine. Physical activity is such a great way to cope with stress and homesickness. It doesn’t have to be anything intense or crazy- just find your favorite way to exercise and incorporate it into your routine. Running has always been something I love to do for my mental health and to stay physically healthy, so I found a park near my apartment to fun in. There is always a way to exercise, you just need to explore!
- Communicate your Feelings. If you are feeling homesick or uneasy while abroad, don’t fret. Transitioning to a new country can be very difficult. It is more than normal to experience these feelings. One of the best things you can do to overcome them is to talk! Talk to your roommates, classmates, family and friends at home, and most importantly SAI coordinators! Everyone around you wants you to thrive while abroad. Do not be afraid to talk to people about it!
Cook at Home- Not only is this a great way to budget food, cooking for yourself at home is really healthy. If you are physically nourished, your mental health is going to flourish. Not to mention, finding local markets with fresh produce is the best way to eat delicious meals every day.
- Learn Your Country’s Health System. Everyone gets colds and aches sometimes. You will most likely experience some sort of sickness since a semester is months long. Not to worry, it is very easy to understand how to navigate foreign health care. Talk to SAI advisors and research online on how to schedule a doctor’s appointment and find pharmacies.
- Treat Yourself. Even while studying abroad, you are going to need time to yourself to focus on relaxation and happiness. Bad days happen, so allow yourself to indulge in the things that make you happiest. For me, eating some delicious French pastries while watching my favorite TV show or reading my most loved book in my favorite café easily does the trick. Let yourself have time to do these things without worry. Traveling and sight-seeing can wait- those things will still be there tomorrow!
Katherine is a Spring 2020 Paris student from the University of South Carolina.