Hello again my readers and study abroad hopefuls!
Ashley Haugland here, and I’m happy to announce I’ve made it to Japan! I’ve been here, buckle up kiddies, a whole eleven days. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “She’s gotta be a pro by now.” (Disclaimer: The application of sarcasm and general sassy-ness expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those ideas and ideals held by the University of Alabama.)
The truth of the matter is, in the past eleven days I have been tested on every threshold a human possesses. In short, talk about ya’ culture shock, and by culture shock I mean, metaphorically, imagine living in a world where no one knows how to pick up their feet and ever surface is a carpet. That much shock. This is the Hell’s Kitchen of study abroad experiences.
To make a long story short, imagine a wee girl after a 20-hour, sleepless flight being thrust into a bustling city of millions with the sole directive to go, go, go. The next morning I woke up to a huge breakfast of “You have no idea how to navigate the train systems,” with a tasty, ever nutritious side of “What’s the word for XXXX again?”
I don’t want to scare anyone or dissuade anyone from pursuing a study abroad experience, because truly I recommend it to everyone. Studying abroad, more than any other experience I can think of, has taught me who I am as a person, and who I am in relation to the world at large. However, I do think it’s important not to candy coat everything.
-mentally insert Sesame Street music if you please-
Today’s blog has been brought to you by the letter M! M for Mental Health Awareness!
I’m just going to list a few tidbits of advice on mental health when studying abroad, take it with a grain of salt, or really any seasoning of your choosing. This is an personal opinion based blog, don’t ‘cha know.
1. Try, as hard as it is, to be objective about your experiences.
– It varies from person to person, but 90% of people are going to experiences some major ups and downs. If things seem weird to you, just try to think outside of the bun (totally not sponsored by Taco Bell…) and see where the ‘natives’ are coming from. There’s more than likely a cultural explanation. Culture shock is normal and it will pass. Different doesn’t necessarily mean bad.
2. Ups and Downs are ok
– The best advice I ever got was to fully embrace the spectrum of human experience/emotion. Obviously, if you feel you are experiencing medical depression or anxiety etc. please seek professional help, however, the normal exchange student will feel some pretty extreme ups and downs. It’s okay to be sad or upset sometimes (please don’t take out your emotions on others…I’m not liable for you all…but..). The worst thing you can do is ignore how you’re feeling. Try to talk to someone, there are plenty of resources, or take some personal time to reflect on what may be causing the tension and possible solutions.
3. Do what you can do
– You are going to meet students who are far more advanced and far less advanced than you are (if you’re learning a second language). If you’re a competitive person, like myself, try not to let it ruin your experience abroad. You do you. Your basis for where you should be should be based on yourself, no one else, because everyone is unique. We all approach learning with different methods at different paces.
4. Stay healthy
– Getting enough sleep and nutritious food will greatly improve your mental health. Promise. Scientific fact. Google it.
Just take it day by day! Eventually you’ll acclimate and all that adversity will have hardened you. (Mentally. Hardened you mentally….as in…a leader…a world citizen if you will. Not physically. I am living proof, here. Zero abs to be had.)
Hope this has been helpful! Till next time!
Your friendly, neighborhood Bama Blogger,