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England, Exams, Mental Health, and Me

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In England, most classes are assessed by a single exam. That kind of high intensity situation can be very stressful for a neurotypical person; for those with anxiety like me, it can be terrifying. And yet, even knowing this, I chose to study abroad here, and so can you.  Part of the reason I chose to study psychology is because I wanted to help people who struggle with issues like these. I never want students with mental health issues to believe there are things they can’t do.  So it is very important that these students know the best ways to manage the difficulties that study abroad might present for them.

Building a Framework For Managing Stress Abroad

The first thing you will need to be able to do– or at least be prepared to do– is stay calm in a crisis. Things will go wrong, and you need to be ready to deal with it. Consider different scenarios, such as getting very lost, and how you might respond. Before you leave your room, have a plan for what you will do if you get lost. I find it helpful to think rationally about the problem and ask myself “what is the worst thing that could happen?” Usually, it doesn’t end up being a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Being able to keep this perspective is really important.

It’s also important that you know the best way for you to manage your stress. Various techniques work for different people. I like to set aside time to practice self-care during the week. I make sure to take care of myself by taking time to relax. This helps me keep my stress levels low so I can focus on my work better. Other ways of managing stress include meditating and exercising. Find a method that works for you before you study abroad so that you’re prepared when things begin to get difficult.

Reaching Out for Help and Being Patient With Yourself

Another thing to keep in mind is not to be afraid to get help. If you see a therapist that you like in the States, ask if they’re willing to occasionally do Skype sessions. You could also find a professional to talk to abroad. Both the University of Leeds and IFSA-Butler have helpful recommendations for international students; counseling is covered by the IFSA-Butler health insurance. Studying abroad is supposed to be a challenge and a growing experience, but don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it. There’s nothing wrong with having someone to help you when things become too much.

Finally, don’t worry if occasionally you mess up or slip back into old habits. I sometimes struggle with this because I like to consider myself mostly recovered, but I do still experience symptoms. Be kind and give yourself a second chance. You might have bad days, but that can’t ruin the whole experience. Remember how much you’ve accomplished. Step away from the bad times in order to think about all the amazing things you have experienced, and all the things you’re still planning to do. I promise, the good will always outweigh the bad!

Carley Roe is a psychology major at The University of the South: Sewanee and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler in England at the University of Leeds in Spring 2017. She is an International Correspondent for IFSA-Butler through the Work-To-Study Program.