Mental Health Abroad

Mental Health Abroad

Studying abroad can be an enriching and transformative experience, but it's essential to prioritize your mental health to ensure a successful and enjoyable journey. If you have mental health concerns, careful planning and self-care strategies can make your time abroad more manageable and fulfilling.


Before You Go: Preparing for Your Journey

As you prepare for an international experience, use the following questions and resources to guide you. You are encouraged to discuss these topics in-person with a study abroad advisor and/or your healthcare provider(s). UNT Counseling and Testing Services can also provide guidance and resources as you prepare for your experience.

  • How do you currently respond to stress on UNT's campus? Emotions, both positive and negative, often feel more extreme while in a foreign environment, so it's important to evaluate how you handle stress and uncertainty and develop healthy coping mechanisms to deal with any challenges that may arise.
  • Is your healthcare provider aware of your intention to study abroad? Discuss your plans, concerns, and any medications you may need while abroad. Your physician may advise seeking out particular accommodations to ease the transition into your time abroad.
  • Do you regularly take any prescription medications? Certain prescriptions in the U.S. may be illegal in other countries. Research the legality of your medications ahead of time. The U.S. Embassy website for your destination country is a helpful resource. If your prescription is legal, you will want to ensure you have an adequate supply of medications to last the duration of your stay. If it is not legal, work with your healthcare provider to establish potential alternatives.
  • Is the chosen location and term conducive to a positive experience for you? Many students enjoy certain quality of life benefits while abroad, like the availability of public transportation and walkability of towns and cities. While you may find several other environmental factors and cultural norms to be a benefit while abroad, others may require an adjustment to your day-to-day routines. Researching the climate, transportation options, population size, availability of foods for particular diets, and cost of living of potential destinations will help you to select the best location for you and successfully prepare for cultural and environmental differences, which can reduce stress while abroad.
  • What kind of support network do you have, and how familiar are you with the mental health resources available to you? Maintain open communication with your loved ones and inform them about your mental health needs. If you plan to study at a foreign institution, seek out the offices and resources they offer their students ahead of time so that you know where to seek guidance if needed. Some UNT mental health resources may be available to you while abroad or can help you in pre-departure to build effective coping strategies and healthy habits. 


Managing Mental Health While Abroad

The following tips will help you to manage potential stressors and maintain a positive experience while abroad.

  • Stick to a routine: While it's tempting to stay up late doing and exploring as much as you can , it's essential that you do not neglect your physical health. Establishing a daily routine can provide structure and stability, which is especially important when adjusting to a new environment. Regular sleep, exercise, and a balanced diet can positively impact your mental well-being.
  • Stay connected: Stay in touch with friends and family back home through calls, messages, or video chats. Social connections can help combat feelings of loneliness, homesickness, and isolation.
  • Seek local support: Regardless of the program type you choose, there are mental health resources available if you encounter challenges while abroad. 
  • Don't withdraw: Retreating from your experience will likely lead to feelings of isolation that will exacerbate any existing challenges. If you feel stressed or overwhelmed, take some quiet time to yourself and then get out there to explore part of your city or meet up with a new friend.
  • Keep up with your hobbies: If you have certain hobbies or activities that bring you joy and help relieve stress, like yoga, crafting, or photography, don't neglect those hobbies while abroad. If your hobbies require equipment or space that you don't have overseas, seek out alternatives that can bring you a similar sense of joy and familiarity. You may even be able to find related classes in your city or student orgs and can benefit from an added sense of belonging through community involvement.


Additional Resources

Here are some helpful resources for managing mental health while abroad:

UNT Counseling and Testing Services

IES - Mental Health & Studying Abroad

API - Mental Health Checklist Before Going Abroad

AIFS - Mental Health and Wellness Abroad

Crisis Text Line - Text "Hello" to 741741 for immediate support