Michelle Davies

By: Michelle Davies, Thompson Rivers University, winner of the BC Study Abroad: Stories from Abroad Scholarship

Study Abroad Destination: Switzerland

Traveling abroad to study is both exciting and terrifying. It is a whirlwind of emotions. From my two experiences studying abroad, and working with numerous outbound students at my university, most imagine their time away through rose coloured glasses. Few prepare for the reality that struggles and mental health challenges may very well present themselves on our "trip of a lifetime."

I remember during my time abroad in Switzerland, sitting on a bus heading for school looking out at the beautiful snow dusted alps asking to myself: “I am exactly where I want to be, I worked so hard to get here, so why do I feel sad and deflated?”

The reality is, just like at home, mental health can come with its up and downs. Just because you are abroad in a beautiful country fulfilling your dreams doesn’t mean you are automatically going to be happy and feel good all the time. Just like when I was at home, I needed to create an environment and take active steps to care for myself…

My Personal Tip List for Maintaining Mental Health Abroad:

  1. Prepare before you go (Bring a journal, a blanket from home, or a favourite snack – whatever you know will help lift your spirit on those dark days.)
  2. Be active and go outside (Run, bike, hike or just walk around the block)
  3. Find people you can confide in and don’t be afraid to share how you feel (Whether they are fellow exchange students or friends/family at home)
  4. Figure out what you need to recharge (For some, that may be being around other people, for others that might be quiet time by yourself)
  5. Put up pictures of those you love in places where you'll see them every day
  6. Get off social media and embrace your surroundings
  7. Don't be hard on yourself (It's okay not to feel okay every day)
  8. Seek professional help if necessary (Connect with your university at home. Most offers counseling appointments or services via Skype)
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