Managing Stress When Studying Abroad

Alexandra Greenhalgh
12.04.23 – 05 Mins Read

Studying abroad can be stressful for lots of reasons, like feeling anxious about living in a new country and city or you could be feeling homesick.

Whether you’re already studying abroad or you’re about to embark on a new journey, there are things you can do to relieve student stress and anxiety at university.

Here, we look into the problems that international students could face and what can be done to make the challenges of studying abroad feel easier.

Before we explore the measures that students can put in place to avoid stress and anxiety at university, let’s take a look at why being an international student can be so difficult.

Why is being an international student hard?

Experiencing a new culture, language and climate can be a big change, as well as having to immerse yourself in university life and your education. This transition and the isolation of being so far from home would make anyone feel stressed or anxious.

An international student’s stress may present itself in different ways, but it usually manifests itself in one or more of these ways:

1. Extreme homesickness

2. Feelings of isolation or disorientation

3. Anxious feelings

4. Loneliness or sadness

5. Loss of confidence

6. Feeling tired or emotionally drained

How long does it take to adjust when studying abroad?

There is no set time that it will take to adjust to studying abroad, some people will adapt quickly, but it could take others a few months. The main thing is putting things in place to make sure that the transition period goes as smoothly as possible.

How to cope with stress and anxiety as an international student

It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed in your first few days and weeks, so don’t be afraid to talk about how you’re feeling. Your university will understand that getting used to a new environment takes time and will have services to help you cope with feeling homesick at uni, like counselling and well-being services.

Here are 4 top tips for coping with stress, anxiety and feeling homesick at uni:

1. Get active

As well as asking for support from your uni, there are other things you can do to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and homesickness. It’s likely that you’ll often miss home the most when you’re alone, so keep busy by joining a society or exploring your new home.

Staying active, e.g. by joining a sports society, is a great way of meeting people and boosting your mood; which is why Vita Student locations have gym facilities – to encourage you to exercise and feel good.

Regardless of where you’re studying, from Belfast to Barcelona, your university’s location will be stooped in history and oozing with culture. So get out and soak it all up – it’s an excellent way of keeping busy and familiarising yourself with your new surroundings. One of the best ways to do this is by bike, which is why we offer free bike hire at our accommodation.

2. Stay in touch with your roots

Just because you’ve left home, it doesn’t mean you have to disconnect from it completely. Keeping in touch with friends and family via regular video calls is easier than ever.

Another thing you could do is research your new city to ascertain whether there are links between there and your home country – you’ll be surprised at what you find.

Your university will be used to helping people just like you get settled in your new surroundings. Speak to them about what you’re missing, they could help you find shops that sell food from your home country so you aren’t left craving any treats.

3. Get involved in uni life

Participating in societies that you’re interested in is a great way of meeting like-minded people and keeping yourself busy.

Events will be held throughout Freshers Week to help you integrate into uni life, so get involved. It’s good to remember that everyone else is in a similar position to you. Your fellow students will all be new to this experience and may never have visited the city before. So don’t be afraid of saying hello and participating in the various activities and events that will be organised as part of Freshers Week.

As we have mentioned, you’re more likely to start feeling sick when you’re on your own or during quiet times, so try to fill your free time with activities that you enjoy.

4. Remember this feeling isn’t forever

If you’re feeling homesick or anxious at university, it’s important to remember that these feelings won’t last forever. Overcoming the challenges you initially face can ultimately be of benefit to you personally and to the memories of your time studying abroad.

what you can do

While we have detailed things you can put in place to make the transition to moving abroad easier, you may still feel down from time to time. It’s common for students to feel stressed, anxious and homesick at university. However, it’s important to understand when you might need help.

To deal with homesickness while studying abroad, try these tips for dealing with negative thoughts and feelings:

1. Be proactive – understand that you’re allowed to feel upset or sad sometimes, but don’t let yourself feel like that all the time. Be proactive and avoid things that may make you feel more unhappy, like sad music or staying in your room.

2. Let it out – explaining how you feel, whether it’s to a friend or family member or in a journal, helps you get things off your chest and let go of how you feel. You should also be able to also access services at your University, who have dedicated counsellors and staff to help.

3. Do something you enjoy – going for a walk, cooking your favourite meal, reading or listening to music in the park, whatever you enjoy doing, do that.

4. Speak to loved ones – feeling lonely, especially if you’re far from home, can encourage sad thoughts. If you’re feeling low, call a friend or family member and let them know how you feel – before long you’ll be laughing at old memories or planning to make new ones.

5. Give yourself something to look forward to – booking a trip home or seeing a friend at their uni is a great way of cheering yourself up. Planning and having a good sense of anticipation is a good way of motivating yourself when times are tough.

Above all, it’s important to remember that it’s normal to have feelings of anxiety and homesickness. With the tips we’ve outlined above, you now know what measures to take if you’re feeling stressed or sad while you study abroad.

Ensuring you have the right place to live can alleviate the stress of moving too. Vita Student understands the importance of having a good home away from home, which is why all of our locations have 24/7 services in place to make you feel welcome and comfortable, and our staff are trained in mental health support.

Explore Vita Student here.