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How My Health Took a Toll After Studying Abroad 

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Temple chapter.

Before I left for Oviedo, Spain back in January, I had so many ideas pictured in my head about what study abroad would look like. I had heard all about the dynamic flamenco dancing of Seville, the wonder of La Sagrada Familia (thank you, Cheetah Girls) and even the wild nightlife in Ibiza. But what nobody told me was how hard it was going to be to adjust my health habits abroad. 

While trying to adapt to speaking a new language and taking on a new culture, I simultaneously struggled with drastic health, diet, and lifestyle changes. I knew that going abroad meant experiencing change and taking on a ‘new life’ in Spain. However, enduring these unexpected physical and mental changes really impacted my experience, because while enjoying all of the food, travel, and history, I couldn’t help but also focus on how much my health was taking a toll.  

To start, I had an extremely tough time with the food. Although food can vary widely in Europe, the region in Spain that I was in, Asturias, has a very carb-heavy, potatoes and bread diet. You will not see many leafy greens or heavy proteins, but instead baguettes and fried potatoes to last a lifetime. 

I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) as a result of insulin resistance—in simple terms: my body does not like carbs. Overtime, I became deprived of the vitamins I’m used to getting from vegetables like spinach and kale, and instead overwhelming my body with carbs it was constantly rejecting. As a result, I spent my five months extremely bloated, gaining weight rapidly, and even losing my period for the entire time abroad as a result. This was not ideal to say the least. 

The food was the hardest curve for me to navigate, but there were other lifestyle obstacles that took a lot of adjustment. In Europe, everything felt later! Dinners were significantly later, around 9:30pm or 10pm every night, meaning I had to get used to going to sleep with such a full stomach. 

Speaking of sleep, my sleep schedule was impossible to get a hold of abroad. Here in the U.S., I am so anal about going to bed early and getting my eight hours of sleep each night. In Europe, bedtime wouldn’t be until midnight most nights, and if I went out, sometimes I would come home as late as six in the morning. 

You may wonder, maybe going to the gym would’ve made me feel better about all these changes? Well, although I am a ‘gym girl,’ it wasn’t always easy to make it to the gym while studying abroad. Despite my rigorous gym routine here at home, trying to apply that while I’m studying a new language, traveling constantly, and making time to hang out with all my new international friends made it tough to stay in a routine. As a result, I definitely felt the effects of not consistently weightlifting and stretching. 

Despite the challenges I faced, studying abroad was one of the best life experiences I’ve ever had. Don’t let this deter you because everything is an adjustment when studying in a new country. The important thing is that although I endured these health challenges, I tried not to let it infringe on my experience.  

What helped me is reminding myself that this was all temporary and I’d have years to get back into my American routine, but only a few short months to experience living in Spain. However, I wish more people spoke on these very real struggles that can come with going abroad. 

Brianna Boone is a staff writer for the Her Campus at Temple University chapter. She covers the health section with topics such as fitness, on-campus health trends, and mental health. Beyond Her Campus, Brianna worked as an editorial intern for BET/Paramount, where she wrote digital lifestyle, entertainment, music and news content for a diverse audience. In addition, as a public relations intern at Kaplow Communications, she got to apply her life-long passion of writing to the world of lifestyle and beauty brands. She is currently a senior journalism and Spanish double major at Temple University, who will be continuing full-time at Kaplow Communications after graduating in May 2024. Brianna is a Real Housewives and Jersey Shore superfan, obsessed with all-things reality television. A big part of who she is is her holistic lifestyle approach to health and wellness. The best place to find her is on a couch or on a beach!