Students will encounter challenges and stressors when studying abroad such as leaving friends and family, experiencing cultural differences, and possible recurrence of pre-existing conditions. Situations entailing a high level of stress can cause unusually strong emotional reactions and can interfere with students’ effective functioning abroad. Such reactions are normal responses to abnormal situations and are to be expected under the circumstances. Read more about how to cope with culture shock which can cause significant mental health issues.
If you have any existing mental health condition (including anxiety, ADHD, depression, etc.), these issues will not go away when you go abroad and may actually intensify. It is important to plan ahead and think about the challenges you will be faced with while abroad. If you would like to talk to one of the Chapman University counselors about any concerns you might have before you depart, please make an appointment with Student Psychological Counseling Services .
Students who seek support early on and use available resources are more likely to be successful abroad. Follow the steps below for psychological pre-planning before studying abroad, whether or not you have pre-existing mental health conditions:
- Plan ahead. What challenges do you expect to face while you are away?
- Make an appointment with the Student Psychological Counseling Services before going abroad for a confidential mental health check-up and learn how to set goals, manage time, and cope more successfully with the challenges of study abroad.
- Research if your medication(s) are legal in the country you are going to, what you need to know about transporting and/or obtaining your medications, and how to maintain your medication schedule while abroad.
- Do not make changes to your medications prior to or during the program abroad.
- Check what professional resources are available in your host country. Many study abroad programs can help you identify local resources such as professional counselors who speak English and enable you to obtain treatment abroad.
- Disclose information directly with your study abroad advisors so that we can give you support and guidance to continue your experience abroad if psychological concerns arise. Study abroad can be stressful and exacerbate such problems. If there are any medical issues that concern you, it is important that program staff know about these issues before the student leaves home.
- Practice good self-care while abroad including adequate rest, healthy diet, exercise and moderate use of alcohol if you drink.
Information from "Best Practices in Addressing Mental Health Issues Affecting Education Abroad Participants © Copyright 2006. NAFSA: Association of International Educators."
Preparations for Travel with a Mental Health Condition: View the Table of Contents to get started.
Her Story: Studying Abroad with a Mental Illness: A student shares her personal experience of studying abroad with a mental illness.
Dealing with Post-Study Abroad Depression: What is PSAD and how can you deal with it?