Spending any amount of time studying abroad is an impactful experience. While many students have had their study abroad experience cut short as a result of the coronavirus, that doesn’t take away from the impact it’s made.
For students whose programs ended early because of COVID-19, not only are you dealing with reverse culture shock but the fact that something you’ve likely been planning for and working towards for years did not go as planned. These can be overwhelming and frustrating times, and we’ve got a few ways for you to stay mentally healthy and cope with this unprecedented change.
Stay connected with your friends from abroad
No matter where in the world you are, it’s easy to stay connected to people. Try creating a standing group date with friends from your study abroad group. Committing to a specific time every week or two weeks to meet up will keep communication consistent and give you something to look forward to.
Focus on your online courses
For many students who have been sent home early as a result of the COVID-19 situation worldwide, they are finishing their classes online. We know taking study abroad classes from your bedroom is much different than from your host country, but it’s an important time to stay on top of your studies. Plus, this serves as another opportunity to connect with your friends from abroad.
Scrapbook your travels
With a variety of lockdowns and mandated quarantines going on, there’s plenty of time to jump right into scrapbooking your photos from study abroad, making a video out of all that GoPro footage and other crafty projects. If you need some inspiration, Pinterest is always a good idea and here are five craft projects you can do with your study abroad photos. Don’t forget that you can always share your videos with USAC or share your study abroad story on the USAC blog to stay connected with USAC.
Take advantage of the resources
Whether you were abroad for three weeks or three months, reverse culture shock hits the same. Fortunately, this is a topic we’ve discussed many times before, so take some time to read our top resources for dealing with reverse culture shock.
We’ve discussed some strategies for dealing with the shock of returning from study abroad, but with the new COVID-19 virus affecting things worldwide there’s good reason to do a mental health check-in as well.
Here are four tips we recommend for staying on top of and in control of your anxiety and overall mental health during this time.
Allow yourself to grieve
When your study abroad experience ends without any warning, you lose a piece of yourself. You lose an experience you were fully enveloped in and losing anything that meaningful calls for some grieving. The best way to get through grieving is to allow yourself to do it. There is no right or wrong length of time that it will take for you to not feel sad about your study abroad ending, so embrace that period for however long it lasts.
Exercise boosts your mood! The good news is that even if you’re in lockdown or quarantine you can still get outside or do some exercises in your home. Many companies are offering free or affordable subscriptions to online fitness classes. Even getting outside for a walk for 20 minutes a day can have positive effects on your mood and mental health.
Sometimes self-care is easier said than done, but fortunately, with the power of technology, there’s literally an app for everything. If you’re having trouble sleeping or simply calming your mind, try downloading the Calm App or similar meditation apps. Sometimes we need a reminder to take 30 seconds to just breathe.
Be cautious of your media intake
We know aimlessly perusing social media is a great pastime when you have a lot of time on your hands, but some media outlets are not helping the coronavirus situation, and non-stop consumption of news and stories about the pandemic can be overwhelming. If you want to stay informed, stick with reputable sources like the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and recognize when it’s time to log off for a bit.
Lean on the USAC team
While dealing with the Coronavirus has been a new situation for all of us, USAC has been sending students to study abroad for more than 35 years. No matter what stage of your study abroad journey you’re in, we’re here to help and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Without a doubt, these are unprecedented times, but this too shall pass. Our CEO said it best, study abroad teaches one to be resilient and flexible, and right now that’s the best we can all do. Take the necessary steps to stay mentally healthy during this time, utilize the resources available to you, know you’re not alone in dealing with your reverse culture shock, and start dreaming up your next adventure.