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How to Cope With Anxiety While Abroad

More than a half of my time in Bologna has passed. The sun is coming out more often than it did when I first arrived in this molto antica e bella city. Piazza Maggiore is always packed with young people lying on the ground – sunglasses on, books on their chests, gossip floating – and hippie street artists playing music out of a bike in the background.

But there are days that go by faster than others. Sure, there are towers to climb, museums to visit, and Campari to sip (or not sip). However, starting around beginning of March, I have been feeling extremely…bored. Having been heavily involved with extracurricular activities in Carlisle, I feel a little helpless that, besides classes, I no longer have a set agenda/schedule of planned events or activities to attend. 

Then the evil of social media and time difference appear. Friends and loved ones begin to seem far away (Probably because there are an ocean and six-hour time difference involved, and that they have their own lives to lead, but I seem to forget that from time to time). FOMO attacks. You can’t find a normal American-sized iced coffee anywhere. You can’t even find your favorite cereal. And that red-jacketed, creepy 40-year-old show up next to you in the club, again!

NEVER allow the clash of novelty and nostalgia make you a sulk (as they made me).

While it is much easier said than done, do everything in your power to remind yourself that this YOUR time to explore a whole new part of the world. Tunes you’ve never heard, expressions you’ve never said, walls in colors you never expected, and people you’ve never met. Through these encounters, you will also discover more about you: finding yourself loving food that you never would try, walking so many miles like you never did before, and laying plainly on the concrete ground of piazzas enjoying the sun like you always dreamed about.

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Dickinson College has contracted counselors and other medical professionals who can help you cope with your emotions. I am currently talking to a counselor about my anxiety and looking forward to my sessions. They have made me much more hopeful about the rest of my time in Europe. 

Anxiety is a perfectly human feeling. It is our body’s natural way of telling us, “something is wrong and you need to fix it.” It might take a while for you to pin-point the problem, but please do not allow the frustration of not knowing the problem right away taint your time abroad. Confront your demons and build your defense (talking to a professional, late-night FaceTime sessions with your best friend, poetry, yoga…) The next time they arrive, you will be better equipped to fight back. 

Finally, remember that those who love you will never leave. They are eager to hear about your journey when you arrive home with a renewed sense of self and the world. As for those who break your heart during your absence, drop them. (Perhaps, studying abroad is also a great way to test who stay true to you?)

Julie Yao is a sophomore International Studies major at Dickinson College. On campus, in addition to being the PR Director for HC Dickinson, she is in Chamber Music, Dickinson Christian Fellowship, and Model UN. Julie is passionate about social justice, politics, strange reality TV shows such as Return to Amish, and tea. She is still confused about many aspects of life, but she also knows she has a ton of time for self-searching and finding peace.
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