Some seem to float through life unaffected by stress. For the other 99.2% of us, stress is part and parcel of everyday life. But there are certain moments or situations when stress levels seem to naturally climb, and applying to study abroad is just one of those times.
The prospect of moving abroad can be daunting enough, without the added complexities of actually studying in a different country. But fear not - there is a light at the end of the tunnel and here are our top tips for managing study abroad stress.
It might seem like an obvious place to begin, but what exactly is causing your stress? Is it the workload that is sometimes needed beforehand? Is it language anxiety? Are you afraid of not making any friends? Or maybe you’re worried about not being able to keep up once the classes start?
Too often we move through life vaguely aware that we are stressed without taking the time to pinpoint exactly why we’re feeling that way. By highlighting the cause of our stress we can begin to address it. If you’re lying awake at night worrying about falling behind in class, why not start reading up and preparing well in advance?
If you’re worried about language issues, then take some extra classes, or simply do some higher-level listening or reading exercises to better prepare. Pinpointing the causes of your stress won’t stop them immediately, but at least the path to solving it becomes a little clearer.
The fear of the unknown can be terrifying. Moving to a place you may have visited only once, or maybe even not at all, is enough to give most butterflies in the stomach - but there are two important things to remember. Firstly, it’s perfectly normal - in fact, almost every single person experiences this kind of emotion before moving to a new place.
Secondly, you’d be surprised at how much a little research about a new area can put your mind at ease. It can be something as simple as just reading about the local area or joining some social groups ahead of time, which can be a great way to feel a little more connected even before you’ve arrived. The more you learn about a place before you arrive, the more familiar it will feel when you do.
Stressing about finances is one of the most common forms of anxiety that faces students when studying abroad. Not only are tuition and fees often more expensive for students from other countries, but the cost of living can be enormously different too.
The key here is to plan ahead. This might include creating a budget, finding some part-time work or saving some money up beforehand. Some universities offer grants or financial incentives for students coming from abroad, and it’s always worth investigating what might be available.
Even after you arrive, it’s important to not feel like you’re alone. There will most likely be hundreds, if not thousands of students in a similar position to you, and the majority of universities do an excellent job of supporting their students during difficult moments.
If you experience financial difficulties while at university, many countries have their own international student's advice bureau similar to this one from the UK, which is excellent at providing sound and constructive advice.
If the language that you want to study in isn't your first, the prospect of sitting in a classroom with other students and a teacher while learning a complex subject in that language can be daunting. Perhaps you need to take a language exam and this is weighing heavily on you, or maybe it’s simply the fear that you will quickly become lost during the classes.
The best way to deal with this anxiety is to tackle it head-on. If you don’t feel confident with a language then what can you do daily to make it easier for you. You can try a language exchange, or simply watch a YouTube video on your chosen subject every day.
You’d be surprised how quickly your confidence can improve this way. If you have to do an exam, then unfortunately the only way to reduce stress is to make sure you are as well prepared as you can be. And that means studying - lots of studying.
Applying to study abroad often comes with plenty of administration work. You need to fill in form A for this, form B for this and so on and so on. It can feel overwhelming, especially if you have other responsibilities that also require your time.
The best thing to do in the situation is set out a plan of everything that you need to do, find out the deadline and then create a schedule for yourself to get it all done. If you have a month to finish everything, that doesn’t mean it all needs to be done in a mad dash over the first weekend. However, it also shouldn’t be all left until the last weekend. Find a schedule that works for you, and steadily go through until it’s all done.
Easier said than done I hear you say! But seriously, you should try and relax at regular intervals otherwise the stress of it all might end up getting to you. Whatever it is you do to unwind, be it binge-watching a few episodes of your favourite show, exercising, meditation, talking with friends or simply just a walk in the local park - now is the time you need to make sure you’re doing it. If you’re having trouble with your own ideas, check out this excellent article from Healthline.
Humans have a habit of pushing themselves to the extreme until they snap. The key is to factor in little moments of calm throughout your days and weeks as you go through the process of applying to study abroad. Stress and anxiety are little monsters, and if left to their own devices they can cause significant health problems over both the short and long-term. Be kind to yourself.
To read more about studying abroad, visit the Edvoy website.
Oli lives in London and is a writer and photographer.