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How to deal with stress when studying abroad

Understanding the cause and how to deal with stress when in a new country

It can be challenging to adjust to a new life abroad while dealing with academic and peer pressure, financial needs, study commitments, work responsibilities and more. Since your life in your new country is going to be remarkably different from India, you may sometime feel too burdened, stressed and homesick. Know that it’s okay to feel low – it happens with everyone. Here are some tips that will help you deal with stress effectively.

Common causes of stress for Indian students abroad

S. No.

Cause

Description

1

Cultural shock

Most Indian students face ‘culture shock’ when they go abroad since there is a vast difference between the culture and the way things happen within and outside India. Given they are mentally groomed in a certain manner, it can become a little stressful to cope on their own.

2

Homesickness

Moving away from your family and friends to a completely unfamiliar environment can make you homesick. This is quite normal; a lot of students go through this phase and often feel lonely, sad, anxious or even demotivated.  You may also feel the urge to go back home or even insecure that you don't belong there.

3

Lack of confidence

Being in a new country also brings in hesitation to interact with people, make friends, voice opinion and more!

4

Academic commitments and work responsibilities

Unfamiliar academic environments, curriculum, and study styles can be challenging for international students. Add to it, part-time work responsibilities to be able to meet financial needs can put students through a lot of stress

5

Burden of fresh independence

The burden of managing a string of new responsibilities such as combating language barriers, find the right accommodation and housemates, paying rent, managing household chores whilst balancing studies also weighs down a lot of students.


Here’s how you can deal with these stressors:

1. Stay socially connected in your host country

Build your local support network or swap stories with other international students sharing similar experiences. You’ll also be able to find a lot of students from Malaysia and nearby countries studying in and around your city, catch up with them. Use social networking sites/apps to find international student groups, or people in your city who share similar hobbies.

2.    Reach out to friends, family and/or personal support networks

Talk to someone close and trusted. Try:

  • Scheduling weekly/monthly Skype sessions with family or friends
  • Traveling and sending postcards back home
  • Writing emails or letters
  • Switching off social media for a while
  • Joining student communities
  • Keeping a busy schedule
  • Meeting new people
  • Be open to new experiences
  • Travel and explore with new friends

3. Exercise regularly, eat healthy and look after yourself

Poor eating habits and sleep deprivation is also known to trigger stress. So, eat nutritious meals and rest well. Try cooking your meals at home instead of eating out often or binging on takeaway food. Exercise improves both physical and mental health. Ensure that you stay active by going for a walk/run, swim or working out in the gym. Meditation, yoga and deep breathing exercises can also help you stay calm and composed.

4. Get to know your new city

Make an effort to get to know your new surroundings and what’s happening in your host city. Familiarising yourself will help you feel more connected and less like an outsider. If you were involved in a club/church/group back home, then find out what your new neighbourhood has to offer.
Research a little about where you’re living and find a few places you should explore –- the best coffee shops in the city, favourite locations for local street artists or all the different places you can go hiking. Make a list of these places or activities and challenge yourself to do/see all of them before you leave.

5. Get a pet

Studies have shown how spending time with a pet can significantly uplift your mood and lower your stress levels. Having a pet around makes your body release happy hormones and keeps you positive. If your university or landlord doesn’t allow you to keep one, you can go and spend time with domestic students who have one.

6. Talk to others about how you’re feeling

There’s no shame in being homesick. It happens to almost everyone. Seek help from a professional if you feel the need for additional support to work through your stress. A range of individuals and organisations provide support for people experiencing mental health concerns. You could also reach out to your university’s student support centre that often has specialists like counsellors and advisers who can help you manage stress.

7. Vent and express your feelings

If you are too shy to express your feeling with anyone, start keeping a journal and vent it all out. You may write poems, stories or even indulge in creative art forms like painting to express yourself.

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