It isn’t just “the best time of your life”.
All I could remember people saying when I told them I was going abroad was how amazing it would be- the great food I’ll have, the wonderful adventures, and the culture I will absorb. It was hard to expect anything else.
Not to say that my experience hasn’t included all of those things- I eat wonderful home cooked pasta daily, I’ve learned a new language, I’ve met great people, and I’ve seen beautiful sights. And yet, my depression still kicks in.
I have heard that this isn’t uncommon. Plenty of people who may have not experienced depression are said to experience it when they go abroad. It is quite a change to daily life and can be jarring emotionally. Luckily, as one may say I suppose, I have experience with depression and have been able to adjust my routines accordingly.
It is strange how it is affecting my life- where I know myself as a well-adjusted social person, I am seeing my quieter, more insecure, younger self emerge just a bit. I’ve felt the need to spend more time alone, which only causes more anxiety from me worrying why. As someone who came to the program knowing no one, it has been hard for me that everyone else seems to have a set group. All of the Greek students connect through their culture, and the other Americans came with other people from their schools.
While at first I was thrown off, I have taken time to myself to discover how I need to react to this to take care of myself.
I go on walks by myself to think, take photos, explore, and get exercise.
I keep a journal and draw.
I call home to friends and family (the best place to rant if something abroad is pissing you off)
I plan things for myself- regardless if someone is willing to join me or not.
I schedule enough time to get my work done and be on my own.
I invest time with people who care about me.
I keep to a schedule/ plan my days.
Now these things are in no way a fix all. Some days are harder than others and I find myself spiraling. Those are days when I call it an early night, put my thoughts on hold, and try to get some sleep. I often feel better in the morning. These things also don’t work for everyone. It takes time and practice to figure out what works. Often times exercise and doing enjoyable things are good places to start.
Dealing with this while abroad is hard. No one talks about their depression while abroad- they only share the good memories. It makes you feel like the only one having a ‘bad’ time during the ‘best time of your life’. It gets in the way of truly enjoying your experience. You are with a whole new group of people in a whole new culture. Your loved ones are far away, and its easy to feel as if you are dealing with it on your own. Its good to remember that plenty of people go through this, loved ones are easier to reach than you think (and they want to listen, even when its hard for them to understand), and that even when you are feeling this way, you are still experiencing something amazing and taking a brave step in life.
Please note if your depression has gone on for a long period of time or at any time feels unbearable, it is best to seek professional help.