This week, ACCENT Madrid Programs Coordinator Tania Rodríguez provides some advice to students preparing to study abroad, particularly addressing common emotional challenges study abroad students experience and how these challenges can be addressed.
Being abroad isn’t just going to school in a different country, it’s a challenge in many senses: to be ready to live and face new experiences every day, meet new people, and question almost everything. Once you decide to take this amazing journey of self-development, there will be no way back. This will surely affect your emotions, and that is why it is so important to take the time to think about them.
You’ll be in many situations where you will have no teacher ot her than yourself, where no one will tell you what to do or what anyone is expecting from you. You will be immersed in many different situations that will make you question your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. This doesn’t mean that you have to change them, not at all, just that they will be in constant flux. Some of these situations will be more pleasant or easier to understand than others, but all of them will have an important role in your experience. Try not to judge the emotions that arise, just be able to identify them, and have some tools for changing what you want to change.
Find people that respect you, that allow you to value yourself, and that encourage you to overcome your fears. Choose to be surrounded by those who let you be. It might sound weird, but trust me, it is not easy! Many times, we are who we have been told we have to be. Take this time to reaffirm and re-connect with who you are.
It is also very important that you keep some rituals from home that make you feel happy and present. It’s common to be unaware of the many pressures that you endure every day, since we don’t often take the time to be present. Meditation and mindfulness will allow you to be mentally present, to be conscious, and to feel. Writing is also a great tool to put your thoughts and emotions in order.Being abroad is also an organizational challenge. You’ll want to do more things than you would normally do back home, but in a shorter amount of time. Not only will you have the same amount of reading, exams, and group projects that you would have at your home university, but also weekly trips, daily gatherings with friends, visits to different events occurring in town, and spontaneous events. Participating in all of the above necessitates excellent planning skills if you want to have great academic performance and enjoy your time abroad.
One of the most common feelings while in a new city is that “time flies,” and that you do not have enough time to complete everything you need to do as well as everything you would like to do, so here are some tips:
–Set your priorities: Which tasks or activities are the most important for you? They should be your priority overall.
–Differentiate between what’s important and what’s urgent: Divide your tasks into the following categories: important and urgent; important, but not urgent; urgent but not important; neither important nor urgent. This will help you to outline, clarify and organize.
–Do not lose your main goal or objective: It will be your guide.
–Do not compare yourself to others: Keep in mind that we are all different, and that every experience is unique. Believe in yourself.
~Tania Rodríguez, ACCENT Madrid