Taking Care of My Mental Health While Abroad

This week marked the first full month of my studies at Collarts, and also served as a great check-in point. As some of you may know, this past week was an important week for mental health, with World Mental Health Day recognized on Wednesday October 10th. When I walked into school on Monday, there were flyers posted all over the walls for Collarts’s mental health week activities, such as a free healthy breakfast available to all students on Tuesday. As research on mental illness has expanded over the years, many groups, both here in Melbourne and back in the US have begun working towards minimizing the stigma surrounding mental health. This being said, I truly believe that the initiative the Collarts community took this week (and every other week I’ve been here) is a step in making a positive change, especially in a higher learning environment.


When I found out I’d be coming to study in Melbourne for three months, I began imagining myself spending countless days on the beach, without a care in the world. Since I arrived, I’ve made sure not to forget the main reason I am here: to learn. My job as a student is to not only attend my classes, but to participate and put my best effort into my assignments. But how does that work out when you find yourself in a major city on the other side of the world, with a lot of time on your hands? I’m still figuring that out. What I do know, thanks to many helpful reminders this week, is not to lose focus.


I’m in a brand new environment with new courses and new classmates, but I’m still me. During all the time I spent looking forward to my time here, I somehow got the idea that all the troubles I had in Philadelphia would magically go away. Well, they didn’t. Mental illness doesn’t take a break when it’s convenient for you, and you have to be constantly working to help yourself, I found. This week my anxiety started to get a hold of me, what with all of my assignments and the overwhelming prospect of trying to explore an entire country while completing all of those assignments. I still have plenty of time left in Melbourne, and I knew I needed to get myself back on track.


I’m a known procrastinator, but the pressure created by looming deadlines always increases as time goes by, so I created plans for completing all of my assignments and got some work out of the way. That felt great. While school is essential to me, I know it’s unhealthy to be thinking about it constantly, so I assessed what else might help me to relax. While the colloquially-known method of “treat yo self” does have some merit, I realized that spending excess money while abroad and on a budget would likely add to my stress. Thankfully, Mother Nature was on my side this week and I made it a priority to spend time at the beach sunbathing, swimming, and taking photographs.


The moral of the story here is that while many things are different when you’re studying in another country, you’ll still have to address many of the same things you would at home. It’s all about finding a good balance between your obligations and your mental and physical health, and you should check in on yourself periodically, no matter what things seem like on the surface.

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