It has been an incredible autumn here in Italy. The past two months have been full of so many different emotions and experiences-not all good, but I have learned a lot of them for sure.
Gosh, I have to say studying in a language different from English (or Bulgarian) has been quite an experience. I mean, yeah, its hard being away with everything familiar, but combine that with having to deal with a different bureaucratic system and etiquette of education and the cultural shock that makes you even loose appetite (at least for me)-and there you have a crisis! There is a side of studying abroad that is not all parties and sunshine (even tough in Italy that is pretty much how it is if you ask me).
Naturally, when you can’t organize your everyday life you can’t function properly and you can’t even begin thinking about studying (which becomes a problem mid semester especially if you study in a language that you don’t know). And even if you manage to abstract yourself from the chaos, sometimes the smallest thing can put you right back down again. I, for example, had a real hard time dealing with the other exchange students’ negativity. Yes, we were all having a hard time but they complaining and overly exasperating the situation didn’t really help much. It is normal in the first months of living in another country when you’re all stressed and anxious, not to spread joy and happiness around you everywhere you go. But honestly there were days where my classmates would just do nothing but rant about how unhappy living in Italy makes them, and the thought of stop seeing them has passed through my mind more than one time. (even though it was impossible-we do have classes together…;D JK, I didn’t want to stop seeing them, but they made my life really hard).
Negative thinking is something that we are often naturally prone to. Most often than not we would see the bad side of things and take the misfortunes that happen to us personally. The truth is, when it comes to leaving abroad, it is always going to be difficult. Chances are if you’re staying home, you’ll be having a hard time as well- that’s life! It’s full of obstacles and challenges. And they are the best thing that can happen to you because you get that priceless experience that you can afterwards utilize to find your happiness. Sorry for the cliché- but there is no better time than now. Objectively seeking you can never be ready for the stuff that’s going to happen to you, and just acknowledging that and learning how to behave in stressful situations is going to make you stronger.
In this month’s blog I would like to expose the other side of studying abroad, not the exams (I’ll dedicate another blog on that including useful information for future students) but the problems with socializing and find you’re place in a completely new environment (without going too deep though). I want to point out the importance of finding a sort of equilibrium and sense of complacency or in other words-how when you wake up in the morning to look forward to the new day and be excited about it.
Being on your own in a whole different country and culture is a tough one. You will encounter a lot of issues that you can’t foresee. After a bit of research and drawing from my personal experience I have made a short list that touches upon some of the ways to deal with homesickness and depression abroad. I leave by the motto that you can have everything and that happiness is possible in this moment, you just need the mindset to achieve all of your goals despite the obstacles. Here we go, I’ll do my best not to write a lot of obvious shit but sometimes it is necessary to be reminded of them:
1.Keep your habits:
In order to have some kind of balance in the first months while abroad it is important to keep with your habits. But be careful. That must be done up to a point. Аdapt your habits to the new environment because only that way you’ll manage to get the positive effect from them. Things are not gonna be the same as you used to do them home and make sure you know that so that it won’t discourage you.
Allow yourself to feel homesick of course but obsessing about it every day is just not healthy. It diminishes the whole experience of saying abroad but also relieve yourself of the pressure that you have to have fun on your year abroad every second of every day. That’s not realistic. You need to find the right balance for you and that requires patience. How to do that I explain in the next step.
2.Create a routine
It doesn’t matter how disorganized of a person you are, creating some kind of routine is healthy for your existence. And don’t give me that shit that you hate routine and you want to go abroad to escape from it. It’s not true-you’re a student you need to have a routine. There is a pleasant kind of routine too. Take me and Anna for example. We decided that this life of misery-having lectures all day and then going home to study will just not do (because lectures in Italy are not 55 min like in GU, but like 2 hours…) so we set every Wednesday we would go to some cool Italian place and have a lovely lunch. Most restaurants have really affordable lunch menus and that way we experience the Bolognese cuisine and get to talk about something different than uni. And there you have it-something pleasant to look forward to every week. That does wonders for your emotional state, especially if food makes you happy as it makes me.
Exercise and meditate:
I keep repeating myself and nobody listens to me but here we go again …Exercise is the first thing that you should do if you’re having emotional struggles. Any kind of exercise does wonders for your mindset, not to mention that regular exercise, when eating properly and taking vitamins every day!, boosts your immune system and gives you a sense that you have your shit together. That is a good thing.
Plenty of meditations out there in the world for you to explore. Google it. Find what works for you and do it every day. I have been chanting for 3 years (not every day right now but still rather regularly) and thanks to that I got through a lot of tough periods in my life. Problems often have more than one side and we often tend to neglect that and see things only from one perspective-the egoistic one. Through meditation I’ve become way calmer and patient especially about the future and that is something that the people who are close to me can confirm. It works people!
Finding someone to talk to:
You do need to let it all out at some point. Find yourself a person, and this is important, that lives close to you, i.e. a friend abroad with you to share your pain with. A classmate, another exchange student a local student from your uni anyone who can relate to your pain and will just listen. That should not be underestimated. If I have learned something for my 21 years that is that you should never be ashamed to say: I don’t understand, I need help, I’m not happy with the current situation.
Chances are that nobody can help you. But speaking aloud of your problems helps you to get over them. You may realize that you’re not the only one in this situation and it will help you find a solution.
I’m gonna finish this off with one very obvious but very important point:
Be social, even if you’re not:
The human is a social animal. Yeah you’re an introvert, you feel good on your own bla bla bla… but every once in a while you need to get out there. Be the first to start a conversation. Don’t be afraid to talk with your classmates even if you don’t speak the language well. Chances are that you’re gonna meet some amazing people and you should do everything in your power to find them! It is all up to you to make you’re experience abroad unforgettable. People make not only Glasgow, but also the world 😉