When you start your education abroad the journey is never going to be smooth and comfortable. First, you put a lot of efforts in applying for your university abroad, collecting “Letter of Recommendation”, writing your Statement of Purpose where you have to stand out from the rest, pay a lot of money for the application and the courier and then wait for the results. If the results don’t go your way or maybe you have to settle for something below your league or worse wait for one year more to apply again, that already stresses you out a lot. But after you have been accepted to a program of your choice, the happiness is only there for a limited time until the stress starts kicking in again. You need to prepare for your departure, leave your loved ones with whom you might have spent most of your childhood and adulthood, whom you might not see for the next one year or more. You have to plan what you need, go shopping and get ready to live in an alien country and culture (especially for students from Asia going to the West and vice-versa). Sometimes you have to even learn a new language or improve your already learned efficiency in a language before moving to another country or on the other side reach that country and start learning the language from scratch along with studies or sometimes even work. Sometimes students even come in the hope that they can search for a job part time while studying and that’s how they will support themselves for some duration of their studies.
There are different scenarios and circumstances where a student can get really stressed out during the first few weeks or months. Sometimes students go through nervous breakdown and even depression. Sometimes it takes even a year or two to get settled in a foreign environment depending on your own personality whether you can accept things or not and how much time it takes you to get out of the cultural shock. Broad and open mindedness helps to some extent but when you are somewhere new and you know nobody, then it takes a toll on you and your mind. Knowing someone and forming bonds and friendship is one thing. This is the emotional part of your mind that needs to get settled and should get used to how things are done in your “New Home”. But there is the other part of your brain, the intellectual part which needs to accept the new education system, the exam structure and the way the teaching and lectures are handled. Overall the point is, it seems not that difficult overall when you look at what you have to do from beginning till the end to get your degree but when you start going through the emotional and mental trauma making small progressions step by step and taking necessary steps, you realise it will be ages before you finally taste the success. Even after you get the degree, the job hunt begins and sometimes students taste no success and have to return back to their home country without earning anything and it feels like it is pushing them more towards their doom after all that hard work and lot of money spent in getting their education sometimes even via Loan.
It is better to be prepared or to know actually what to do beforehand when you are going through these kinds of stress. There are some ways which will be mentioned in this article using which you can make your own new “family” in your new home, have fun and try to enjoy your life keeping a balance between study and social life and at worst case find an expert’s help (In this case a psychotherapy).
Try to keep an Open mind and make yourself at your new Home
Yes, you will have cultural shock. You will be in a foreign environment where you are the odd one out (Especially in smaller cities or in ASIA where foreign student percentage is still quite low). But try to keep an open mind without judging and accept the new rules and life. Accept that you have a reason why you left your country to come and live here. Try to settle in to your new environment and new home and surrounding. Try to select your house or maintain it similar to how your house was in your home country. Buy plants and paintings or whatever that makes you feel like home. If you are low on budget then bring stuff from your homeland which makes you feel a bit more comfortable to your new environment.
Think of it as Travelling rather than as an Emigration Process
When you move to another country for a long enough duration then you are basically an emigrant. But rather think of yourself as someone who has come to a foreign country as a tourist. Try to explore new places in your city, new cafeteria, and new restaurants and immerse yourself in the new culture, architecture and food. Don’t think of the local language as a barrier. You will always find someone who can speak English. You just need to have the confidence and go out.
Join Meetups and Events
My favourite website has been MeetUp.com . You have different clubs (language, board-games etc etc) and events according to your interests and hobbies and you can try to meet new people and spend some time doing great activities. If you like hiking, cooking or even partying then you will find groups according to this. Facebook has events calendar as well from your city. If you are living in a smaller city then chances of finding these are less. They might not even exist. Then better try to join some volunteering programs or take advantage of the less traffic and more natural beauty of that place and go for running and walking. Exercising regularly reduces stress and helps in focussing and in a calm mind.
Keep in Touch with family and friends but also try to make new friends in your City
Your family and true friends will be always there for you. Try to keep in touch with them via skype/whatsapp or any other way if you are going through depression or nervous breakdown. Video calling is better since you can see them face to face and it feels closer to reality than texting. But try to live your real life and make some new friends and try to experience the new things (hiking, skiing, going for music festivals and stuff) which you would or might not have done before in your home country.
Get an Appointment with your Therapist
If the stress and depression is too much. Better get an appointment with a Psychotherapist. Here in Germany it is not easy to find someone who can speak fluent English and help you. Even the receptionist speaks mostly in German and it sometimes can be difficult. But if you are lucky, you will find someone who does provide psychotherapy treatment. And it is quite useful and you can always find a recommended therapist from your health insurance.
For example for TK health insurance (Techniker Krankenkasse)
Use the following link to search for a doctor and the type of doctor you need :
Sometimes they will charge you for this session so be careful and make sure to confirm this with your therapist. Because these sessions can be very expensive (50 to 150 euros per session depending on the type). If you are living in another country then again health insurance might not cover it so better be ready to shell out some money but it is quite worth it.
On the other hand my personal favourite is getting online therapy with the language of your choice and for much less fees (40 euros for a week or 49 dollars per week). I came across the online therapy website called Talkspace.
It is easy to use with a simple interface, comes with an android/IOS app. Your therapist will be chosen based on your needs and your reasons for therapy and will be chosen by your first contact on this app and not you!! Here’s a useful review I found online which might be worth reading.
Well even though this is not a traditional therapy session, you still get advice and help from a professional licensed therapist who you can connect with whenever you want and have a session on the go. You can just text your issue whenever you have them instead of waiting for an appointment or trying to think what the issue was later.
Well there are many other ways you can try to relieve your stress (learn a new hobby, listen to music etc etc). But never forget that happiness and health is more important than anything you can wish for in this world. Your parents, your loved ones want you to be happy. If not, there was no point in taking the risk, moving to another country and fighting for a better life and career.
Be Healthy, Be Happy!!!