Staying mentally and physically healthy while abroad

I’m about halfway through my study abroad experience and already I have learned a lot from my time in Spain, especially when it comes to my lifestyle and health. Before leaving for Spain I think I had a well balanced life, giving work, school and my health equal attention. I knew studying abroad would change my lifestyle, but I was determined to stay healthy and continue my balanced life.

Maintaining this was a huge obstacle because of all the changes that come with living in another country and traveling more than I would while at home.

As much as I told myself it’s going to be easy – it wasn’t.

I found myself falling in a pattern of saying “I’ll do it tomorrow” instead of doing it at the moment. This went on for over a month and I started to see a change in my physical and mental health.

After returning from my trip to Belgium I decided it was enough and slowly started getting my life back together.

I started catching up on my homework, going to office hours when I needed help, eating healthier and going on runs in a nearby park.

I started giving myself some me time every once in a while where I would turn off my phone for at least an hour and watch Netflix, read a book or go on a run. My first month and half in Europe I realized I got too carried away traveling and exploring my city that I neglected myself and that is unhealthy.

By giving myself more time to relax and reflect instead of trying to do something new every second of the day, I realized how different my study abroad experience was in comparison to others.

If you study abroad you will notice a lot of people use this time to go out a lot and meet other people. For a while I was conflicted because most of my friends wanted to go out at night and hang out all the time but I didn’t. Whenever I would stay home I would think, am I being anti-social? I should be wanting to go out not stay home and sleep or watch Netflix like I do at home? But then I realized no, that’s just not me and came to accept my grandma ways.

A lot of people look forward to going out in addition to having the opportunity to experience a new country while studying abroad because it is something they can’t do at home, but I am the total opposite. For me studying abroad is more about relaxing, traveling and enjoying a new culture. At home I work two jobs in addition to going to school, being busy is stressful so, to me, being in Spain with no job and just school to focus on is my time to relax.

I spent a good chunk of my first half of this experience thinking I was being anti-social and wondering why I wasn’t like everyone else but, now that I have had more me time and got my life back in balance, I am more at peace with myself.

Something I think is useful in order to keep your health and lifestyle in check while studying abroad is making sure you give yourself time to try new things, but still give yourself some alone time.

Seeing people travel and go out is enticing and tempting but I think it is important to dedicate at least one hour in the week to doing nothing, for yourself. Studying abroad is supposed to be relaxing not tiring. If you travel every weekend or go out every day you will be extremely tired, no matter how much fun you are having.

It is okay to do everything you want, but it all comes with a balance.

Emely Navarro is a journalism and Spanish double major. She is studying in Zaragoza, Spain for Spring semester 2017. 


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