Summer is the time to stop and disconnect from our routines, to take time to do what we want and reconnect with the people we love. For me it is also a time of reflection, of seeking inspiration in books, films, trips; to recharge batteries and get back on track with everything that is important. During the frantic pace of the work year it is easy to lose sight of our values and purposes. If you are also going to live abroad to study or work now is a good moment to think about how you are going to take care of yourself physically and emotionally.
This year with the purpose of being more present with myself, without distractions, I walked the Way of St James during my holidays. In my opinion, preparing and starting the Way looks like the steps you have to take to live abroad. Before leaving it is good to pause and think what personal sense this time has for you. Then, while you are trying to adjust, identify what feelings you have and finally, take care of yourself emotionally according to what you are feeling: are you mentally exhausted? Do you feel alone?
First pause, take your time to think and disconnect from the routine. Traveling, and just by changing the environment can give you the ideal scenario to reflect: How have I felt this year? Have I carried out projects connected to my values and purposes? How do I feel about the changes I will experience in my life soon: moving out of the country, studying abroad, etc.? How am I preparing for my move to a new country?
When you are in what will be your new home, you will surely be very excited. You will often feel positive emotions (illusion, curiosity ...) and perhaps also some more difficult ones (confusion, fear ...). It may surprise you that you are feeling all these emotions at once or that your mood changes very quickly. These emotions can be normal in any adaptation process. In addition, the frantic pace of finding ourselves in a foreign country can deplete us physically and emotionally. Before reaching the burnout point, take some time to prepare yourself mentally for the experience you are going to live.
Once you have stopped for a moment, ask yourself, what emotions am I feeling? Maybe you feel like on a roller coaster, you are enjoying a lot and suddenly, you feel sad and discouraged. You cannot explain why your emotions have changed so quickly. It is very common that you miss the people you love and feel that time passes very slowly and that you will not be able to endure until the end.
It is common that when we begin to find ourselves emotionally exhausted or with a bad mood, we also begin to deny that we are not emotionally in a good place and we may tend to isolate ourselves socially. It is a way to fight mentally with a reality that you did not expect. Remember, living abroad, sometimes feels as if you were on a surfboard: you do not choose the experiences that you are going to live, they only appear to you and if you have an open mind and are flexible, you will be able to surf the more difficult waves ... When the experiences we are living are not like your previous expectations and you begin to interpret everything in a pessimistic way, it is important to ask for help!
Finally, think of a plan to take care of yourself. Here are some ideas that usually help people who are living abroad:
• Dare to do something new every day. Remember that being afraid of the unknown is normal and fear is a valid emotion. Life, like moving abroad, is full of inevitable changes. Only when we give up and stop trying to do things we want to just because they scare us, then fear can become stronger than us. Why don't you make a list of things that you feel like trying but scare you a bit or you feel ashamed? Rank them from least fearful one to the worst and start with the easiest. Gradually when you see that you manage to overcome your insecurities you will feel more fulfilled.
• Create a social network abroad if you feel alone. It is generally easier to approach people who are in the same situation as you, like other university students. However, why not make friends with people from the local culture? A good strategy is to do activities that you normally enjoy and would normally do in your country. Language does not have to be an obstacle to, for example, join a dance class, a tapas workshop or a football team.
• Reconnect with those you love most if you miss your country, your family, partner and friends. Surely calling or writing can help you feel better. Learning to find the balance between being in touch with those you love and having time to make new friends will enrich you.
• Process your emotions through writing, photography or painting if you feel overwhelmed by your emotions. There are more kinesthetic people who express and understand their emotions better through physical activities such as dancing, yoga or sports. Having a personal space to stop and process what you are feeling is crucial to recharge batteries and continue with energy.
• Engage in activities that make you feel positive emotions if you feel like you are in a storm and you are not able to feel excited about anything you are living. It can help you to observe with distance, with perspective, what you are currently experiencing. Another powerful emotion that helps us relativize the difficult situations we live is gratitude. To do this, why don't you start your day thinking about three things (or people) for which you feel grateful?
Doing something for the people you care about can be another way to reconnect with your positive emotions. Why don't you look for small souvenirs that you think someone you love might like? Surely they will feel very excited when they receive your gifts.
• Use your sense of humor. If things sometimes get difficult or you feel you are constantly making mistakes when you speak in the language you are learning, why don't you start making jokes with your blunders? I understand that it is not always easy to do it but it can certainly be a good way to make you feel better.
• Practice meditation and do relaxation and breathing exercises. If you feel that you are constantly nervous and overthinking everything you say, then learning to relax your body can definitely help you.
To make the most of your experience abroad, look for the support you need. If you usually take care of your physical and mental health when you are at home, why not do it as well when you are away?
I hope you are excited for "your Way" abroad!