Mental Health

Maintaining good mental health is an important aspect of a successful international experience. Travel abroad often presents emotionally challenging settings and experiences. Travelers may find that familiar support networks, medications, and health services are not available or are considerably different from the United States. Preparing for these differences is key to maintaining good mental health abroad.

We encourage to consult with your health care provider about your plan to go abroad and how you will maintain your mental health abroad. Your health is your responsibility, no one else can prepare you better for your own heath needs.

Students are required to review and complete the "Study Abroad Health Assessment Form" Part A: Self-Assessment. Then, students are required to electronically sign Part B: Statement of Understanding in My Study Abroad.

We highly encourage students to review the "Study Abroad Health Assessment Form" as soon as soon as they identify an interest in studying abroad; understanding personal needs and the potential impact of study abroad on well-being can assist in selecting an appropriate experience or location.

If you see a mental health care provider regularly and you want to maintain care while abroad, you may utilize international insurance to find and schedule appointments with an in-country provider abroad. Be sure to consult with your primary mental health provider about your plan to study abroad. They can help you develop a mental health care plan for your time abroad that best suits you. Please visit the Your Health Abroad page on the U.S. Department of State website for more information.

Do not assume your medications will be available or legal in your destination country. If you take prescription medication, reach out to international insurance to discuss the legality and availability of your prescription in your destination country. If your prescription is not legal or available, international insurance may identify other medications that are available. It is critical to consult with your health care provider to select the medication that is best for you. Once you and your provider have identified medications, consult with international insurance to create a plan for obtaining your medication while in-country. For more information about traveling with medication, visit the CDC website. You can also visit our International Insurance page for more information.

Adjusting to a new culture takes time and can often take a toll on your immune system and/or mental health. The disorientation you may experience as you settle into your destination country is called culture shock. Everyone experiences culture shock differently and it is important to understand what may cause it, how to identify it, and how to support your well-being.

Culture shock is often the result of compounding effects such as jetlag, drinking, stress, language barriers, and other new experiences. Culture shock may cause depression, sleep loss, appetite changes, mood swings, sluggishness, further stress, and anxiety. It is important to look out for these signs of culture shock and mitigate the effects by:

  • Making sure to take the time for self-care and stress management;
  • Trying to maintain your regular self-care and stress management routines while abroad;
  • Maintaining a healthy diet;
  • Sticking to an exercise and sleep schedule;
  • Continuing to take medications as directed, even if you feel you no longer need it, and
  • Utilizing international insurance to schedule an appointment to meet with a mental health provider as needed.

Resiliency is the ability to respond or “bounce back” in difficult or trying situations. International travel will often bring individuals face-to-face with adversity in a new culture, at the same time as potentially limiting support from established social networks.

There are multiple ways to build resiliency, and each individual will respond differently to the situations and actions to improve resiliency. It is important to understand that no two solutions will be the same, so individuals need to find what works for them. However, certain strategies are prevalent in dealing with adverse situations.

  • Maintain support networks. Before departure, plan for how you will communicate while abroad and maintain contact with your support network. Establish new sources of support where you are.
  • Maintain your physical health. Physical health is a key aspect of resiliency. Eat well, get as much sleep as possible, and participate in physical activities.
  • Remember your past achievements. Consider how you overcame similar challenges in the past. Do not simply give up or feel that a situation is beyond your ability; can you apply strategies and actions that previously worked for you?
  • Look to the future. Adopt a positive mindset and focus on what you can do moving forward. Do not focus on past mistakes that. Create plan for how you will respond and “celebrate” your achievements.
  • Relieve stress. Find activities that you enjoy and make time for them every day. It is important to take a break and stop thinking about the challenges. Learn to play a local instrument, take up knitting, or learn to draw!
  • Seek assistance. If you need assistance, reach out and ask! It is not a sign of weakness or failure to let people know that you are struggling. Seek professional assistance if necessary; international insurance can arrange for counseling if required.

The McKinley Wellness App is a good source of information for keeping “WELLthy.” Many of their tips and strategies can assist with building resilience.