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10 Study Abroad Self-Care Suggestions for the Adjustment Phase

by Jessica Alvarez

I have never felt the importance of stagnancy, until I hated movement. Bouncing around from city to city, ending in Paris to study abroad, I wanted anything familiar— the recognition of a place; the comfort of a friend. I surprised myself in learning that constant traveling, and the practice of “living out of a suitcase,” is not only physically draining, but emotionally as well. I discovered that feeling settled and grounded is essential; without it, one is incapable of participating in, and enjoying, the present. It is then that I realized I needed to find a home in myself.

Here is a list of self-care activities and practices that can help you with your study abroad adjustment phase:

1. Meditation and Yoga

Being present with yourself is extremely important in recognizing one’s needs and wants. Meditation and yoga are great ways to accomplish this, as they give you the space and time to think and reflect. Move freely and listen to your body— it will be grateful. Once you discover the things you need and how you can get them, you are better able to create your home inside yourself.

2. Writing

Writing may seem like a cliché response here, but the power of its self-expression cannot be devalued. Let words flow and try not to think; this is a time to get out whatever it is you are feeling or wondering. Have a conversation with yourself — write some lines of poetry, a short story, draw a picture. Set no restrictions or judgements. This concrete expression aids you in understanding who you are.

3. Be a Poet

Find meaning in everything! When you walk down the street, admire the look of a door— try and give it a story. When buying a coffee, savor each sip. Take pride in things that are beautiful. Take the time to think about how your surroundings make you feel. If one allows themselves to hold the eyes of a poet, appreciation and happiness are sure to follow. Attention given to the little things forces you to be in the present. Anxiety comes when one is in the future and past.

4. Get Outside

The worst thing you can do when feeling lost or lonely is to stay in your room. It is so important to feel accomplished, to socialize, and explore, because we all need to find meaning in our lives; without it, we are lost. Of course, we all need those days inside, where we do nothing but relax and lounge— this is completely healthy. However, to prevent this sour taste of stagnancy, sunlight and fresh air can truly remedy all.

5. Be Patient with Yourself

When you stop searching and just be, things move naturally and come to you. Emotions are going to waver because that’s what emotions do. Getting frustrated or angry at yourself will never help. You have to practice being grateful for being a full person, and that means accepting even the most negative of feelings. Studying abroad will leave you with a funky set of emotions. It is important to feel them and to know that it is normal and necessary.

6. Make the Time for Creativity

In order to feel at home, you need to feel comfortable and free. The best way to find this, is to do something creative. For me it is singing, songwriting, and dancing. Maybe for you it is painting, scrapbooking, and photography. Whatever it is that satisfies your person, do it. Experiment with different methods until you feel satisfied and free to just be. Nothing is as freeing as creating something — it is the ultimate extension of self.

7. Laugh and Smile

It is so essential to enjoy and appreciate life; part of this stems from having fun. Tap into your childish self and laugh at even the silliest of things — life is more fun when you do. It has been proven that smiling releases chemicals that make you feel happier. So, whenever you can, smile. It will never hurt.

8. Unpack Your Suitcase and Organize

As soon as you are able to, unpack your suitcase. Lay out all of your belongings and give them a place. You will feel so much relief when you can spread out and feel like you belong in the space. Organizing makes you feel settled, physically and mentally. Giving your stuff a home gives you one, too.

9. Find a Routine

You can benefit immensely from consistency and structure. At least at the beginning, you will need some type of stability. A routine can offer a sense of guidance, familiarity, and comfort. For the time being, it will aid in finding that daily purpose and meaning. A routine can be as simple as having tea before bed or showering in the mornings. Let yourself rest on these types of structures and appreciate having them.

10. List of Gratitude

At the end of each day, write a list of what you are thankful for. Make sure to read over them and to relish in their impact. There is always something to be grateful for; sometimes we forget that. Do not focus on the negative because it will only take space away from the positive.

Eiffel Tower and the Seine River in Paris | AIFS Study Abroad
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