How to deal with stress when studying abroad
Understanding the cause and how to deal with stress when in a new country
When you’re studying abroad, it’s normal to feel a little stressed or homesick once in a while. But sometimes, you might feel you need a bit of extra help – and that’s okay.
Recent research has revealed that, in comparison with the general population, university students are far more likely to experience mental illness. A national study conducted by Headspace and the National Union of Students in Australia surveyed 2,600 TAFE and university students and found that 35% had experienced thoughts of self-harm or suicide, whilst 65% reported feelings of high-to-very-high level stress, panic attacks and sleeping problems (ABC News).
Common student anxieties included:
- academic demands
- pressures balancing work and study commitments
- financial difficulties
- relationship problems
Compared with domestic students, international students were identified as being at higher risk due to extra challenges and stresses faced when living abroad, away from home (Forbes-Mewett & Sawyer).
Fortunately, this same research suggests a rise in reports may indicate that – compared to past attitudes – people nowadays are more open about discussing their experience with mental illness.
With that in mind – let’s discuss mental health!
COMMON STRESSES FACED BY INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
In research conducted by Forbes-Mewett & Sawyer in Australia, international students were interviewed about the most common transitional stresses they faced whilst adjusting to life in their study home and many of these apply to all our study destinations:
CULTURE SHOCK & OFF-CAMPUS LIVING PRESSURES:
Upon arrival, international students face ‘culture shock’ and a string of new responsibilities – including navigating language barriers, searching for accommodation, finding housemates, paying rent, learning to manage a household – not to mention studying!
Students also reported initial worries about English language barriers when making friends, voicing opinions during group assignments and/or utilising professional health-care services (due to fears about miscommunication).
FINANCIAL & ACADEMIC PRESSURES:
In addition to the financial pressures of budgeting and handling household finances, international students must adjust to unfamiliar academic environments, study styles and course-structures. Some students – especially those receiving financial support from home – reported feeling intense pressures to succeed or achieve academically whilst studying abroad.
Students who reported feeling their academic work was ‘below expectation’ experienced higher levels of anxiety and depression (Forbes-Mewett & Sawyer), resulting in poorer academic performance.
But how to overcome these stresses? Here are some tips!
STAY SOCIALLY CONNECTED IN YOUR HOST COUNTRY
Build your local support network or swap stories with other international students sharing similar experiences. Use social networking sites/apps like Meet Up to find international student groups, or people in your city who share similar hobbies.
REACH OUT TO FRIENDS, FAMILY AND/OR PERSONAL SUPPORT NETWORKS.
Talk with someone close and trusted. Still, try not to contact home too often – you’ll want to focus on your current experiences as an international student too. 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.
- Be open to new experiences.
Entertainment guides like Time Out and Concrete Playground are fantastic resources for seeing what’s on (festivals, exhibitions, pub nights, etc) at any given time in your local area.
EXERCISE REGULARLY, EAT HEALTHY AND LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
Exercise improves both physical and mental health – so stretch your legs. Eat nutritional meals. Rest well.
HELPLINES AND COUNSELLING
- Lifeline –13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Service –1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue –1300 22 46 36
- Headspace –1800 650 890
- Good to Talk student helpline – 1-866-925-5454
- Mental Health Helpline – 1-866-531-2600
- Spectra Helpline – Multilingal service covering Ontario only– https://www.spectrahelpline.org/index.php/our-services/multilingual-helplines
- Lifeline – 0800 543 354 veya (09) 5222 999 Auckland sınırları içinde
- Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
- Healthline – 0800 611 116
- Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email email@example.com or online chat
- thelowdown.co.nz – or email firstname.lastname@example.org or free text 5626
- Nightline – Look at Nightline website to see if your university or college offers a night-time listening service. Nightline phone operators are all students too.
- If you are studying in Wales, you can contact the Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L) on is 0800 123 737 or you can text 'help' to 81066. This services is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Samaritans – freephone number is 116 123, or you can email email@example.com.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free on 800-273-8255.
Online chat services
- Lifeline Crisis Chat
- Crisis Text Line (on your smartphone)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline