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Don’t underestimate the impact that cultural adjustment, being in a new environment, and being away from your support networks, such as friends and family, can have on your mental health. Studying abroad can be different than traveling abroad and can affect you in ways you have not anticipated. This is true for both domestic and international programs.

Before you Depart

You can set yourself up for a successful experience by preparing for the emotions and challenges you may encounter while living in a new environment.
  • Make a plan and consider a healthy response to these new or different (and potentially negative) emotions. 
  • One way to prepare for any culture shock you may experience is by researching your host country’s cultural norms, traditions, and history.
  • If you work with a therapist or psychologist, you may consider speaking with them about how to manage cultural adjustment and being in a new environment, and determine a course of action should you experience negative or different emotions while abroad.
  • If you are taking any kind of medication, you should also speak with your psychiatrist/medical provider about those medications. Do not stop taking your medication or modify your medication without first consulting with a psychiatrist/ medical provider. Follow the guidance provided on the Taking Medications Abroad webpage.
  • Consider disclosing your mental health history to your Ed Abroad Program Manager and/or your program provider. They can provide information on mental health care in your host country, answer questions related to possible culture shock, and advise you about on-site resources.

While Abroad

You may experience bouts of culture shock, loneliness, stress, and a range of other emotions as you adjust to being on your program. Those who have experienced depression or anxiety in the past sometimes find this can worsen while abroad. This is due to new and different situations, stressors, and cultural adjustment. As you adjust to the new culture and environment, consider these tips:
  • Don't isolate yourself. Explore your host city, get involved. This could include continuing or starting your exercise routine, making plans with friends, planning excursions, or joining a club.
  • Keep in touch with your support network, including friends and family at home. Also, reach out to friends and fellow participants abroad. Whether on your program or elsewhere, they may be dealing with similar emotions and be able to relate or offer advice. 
  • Remember to eat and get enough sleep. Jet lag and exhaustion can impact mood.
  • If you choose to drink alcohol, be mindful of your use. Alcohol may affect you differently when in another place.
  • Remember, culture shock is normal
  • Consult your on-site staff. On-site program staff are there to ensure your success abroad and should be your first go-to if you feel extra support would be helpful, are concerned about adjusting, or are having issues adjusting. They have had experience working with those who have had similar emotions and can provide support and resources as you adjust to this new experience.
  • Consider additional mental health support.
    • Program staff may also be able to refer you to a local therapist or psychiatrist who may be familiar with working with U.S. students abroad. 
    • Through Education Abroad, you also have access to mental health support through International SOS. To access these services, you may call International SOS at +1-215-942-8478. By calling this number you’ll be connected with a professional counselor. You can choose phone, video-call, or (where possible) face-to-face sessions.
    • If you'd prefer to use self-paced online therapeutic and education programs, you also have access to SilverCloud, CU's online program to support your emotional health and well-being.

Additional Resources