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Mental Health

How Living in Italy Helped me Battle my Anxiety

 

I hate to admit that studying abroad is not always sunshine and rainbows. I’ve had constant battles since I arrived in Florence. I want to share my experience to help other people who are scared to do the Florence program here at Kent State because I know exactly how it felt to want to back out on this decision and go the easier route. I want to tell people that this may have been the best thing to happen to me even though it was not always perfect like how it seems on my Instagram. I’ve had my ups and downs. I always knew it was going to be difficult moving to a foreign country for four months on my own. However, it has brought me to really find myself and help me grow. If I had not made this decision, I believe my life would be completely different.

For the longest time, I have been struggling with social anxiety and seasonal depression. Sometimes back home I could not mentally go to the store because I was too afraid to interact with people that day. Then I got to Florence, where I have to go to the store every day to get groceries for that night's dinner and speak to people in a language that is not my own. At first, it was a shock. I was terrified and did not think I would be able to manage for four months, but things got easier. I found a place I felt comfortable going to, I began to learn where things were and how to say things. As the semester went on I went to the store every night. From time to time I found myself panicking about going to the store, but it was not to the point where I couldn’t go at all. I found myself slowly adapting and getting more comfortable interacting every day. I came back to America and I felt different. It was not a complete change; I didn't go from from having anxiety to none. It just helped push me to get better. I came home, I started going to stores alone, and I did not need my mom or friends to go with me. I did not need my mom to go with me to the gym to purchase a new membership. I can go places and order things on my own, have conversations with customers at work and ask employees for help in the stores without feeling like my world is going to cave in.  

It doesn't get too cold in Italy, but that did not stop the seasonal depression from hitting me. It was not as bad as the times I have faced in Kent, but it still happened. It began to hit me once my trips starting slowing down for the semester. It felt like I had nothing to look forward too anymore. The weather grew colder, and I began to grow sad, wishing to come home. To get through the hard times I had my friends. Here, I surrounded myself with the right people who helped me get through the hard times, Facetime calls to your family back home helps too. Overall, I was able to make it through, I felt stronger with every battle I faced.

Another struggle I faced was worrying about who to go on trips with. My best friend did not do study abroad, she was back at Kent for the semester. I went into this program not knowing many people. I think this was what terrified me the most. Back home, most of the time I have to have someone with me to go to the store, to go out to eat, go to the doctors and even have someone with me to go to the drugstore for one item. I couldn't imagine traveling to different countries without someone by my side. I freaked out about this all the time when I first arrived, but I quickly started to adapt. At the beginning I found myself attached to my roommates, constantly getting them to go to the store with me, but then I started to go on my own whenever I needed to get something. I also clung onto them when going on trips at first. I had amazing times with them and still went on little trips with them later in the semester, but I have also branched out. I have met so many amazing people through the program that I didn’t know before. I got to know them through the trips we did as a class. In a short amount of time, I have met people who have been so kind and helpful towards my mental health. I think we will be friends forever. I am entirely grateful to have made the leap to do this on my own. If my best friend were here I would not have had the chance to go to all the places I’ve gone or have got to meet as many new people. I grew so much from the scared little girl who couldn’t do things without someone by her side. I also found myself accepting that sometimes you need to do things on your own to find yourself and enjoy the moment. It’s this that helps you mature and fight your mental illnesses. You also need to go out and do the thing in life that scares you the most. At the time, you may think it is the worst thing you could do to yourself, but when the moment comes it’ll change your life for the better.

I found in London I was able to go to get my hair cut all on my own. This was crazy to me because I could never have imagined myself being able to navigate my way in a foreign country to a place I’ve never been to and spend an hour talking with a person I have never met. When I was on my journey to the salon, I didn’t have the butterflies and panic feeling in my stomach. It was at that moment I realized that I have grown up so much studying abroad. The battle I fight every day may not be completely gone, but this experience has helped me fight it. It has helped me grow and become more mature and able to handle situations on my own. I feel that everyone who has the opportunity should take it. It’s terrifying, I won't deny it, but you become a stronger person. You have your episodes but you have so many people willing to help you. The school was such a welcoming environment. The advisors were always there when you needed someone to talk to or help you. So please, do the thing in life that scares you, I promise it will change your life forever. It changed mine and overall I am so thankful to have gone through with the study abroad experience. I feel like a better, stronger version of myself. I would not have changed anything about it, even though I went through some panic attacks, mental breakdowns and struggles.

 

 Shelby Rabideaux is currently attending Kent State University. She is majoring in Digital Media Production and will have a minor in Fashion Media. Her love for entertainment and film came from actively going to concerts. She currently is on a TV show called The Blurb that focuses on entertainment news that her school produces. She dreams to be able to inspire others like how she was inspired. Shelby is currently the Campus Correspondent for Her Campus Kent State and the President where she strives to share her love for Her Camps with the Kent community. 
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