Avoiding Burnout While Studying Abroad

Written by  Helen Beynon May 4, 2011

Studying abroad opens doors to new cultures, new experiences, and lifelong friends.

When I moved to the UK to study, I wasn’t only learning from textbooks. I learned from my fellow students, from locals and, most importantly, I learned a whole lot about myself! 

Moving to a new country can be a little overwhelming, even for the most adventurous among us. Combine all these new experiences with a packed school schedule, and you’re bound to get a little stressed out from time to time. The best way to handle the stress is to be prepared, and take care of yourself to avoid pulling out your hair when the going gets tough. Here are a few tricks I used while living in a quaint shoebox residence in Central London.

Start a Study Group: Sitting in your room night after night, or camping out in a dark corner of the library, are the quickest ways to drive yourself starkers! Find some like-minded peers and go to a roomy café where you can enjoy the local ambiance. If it’s a sunny day, take your books to a local park.

Exercise: Go ahead, grunt, groan, say that you’re tired, you’re busy... we know. But working up a good sweat is critical to keeping your stress levels down and your brain working like the well-oiled machine it is. Even if it’s just a short walk in the park, a little boost of endorphins will help you hit the books with renewed energy.

Schedule in Some Exploration: This is your chance to go beyond the tourist traps and uncover the nooks and crannies that make a place special. Get to know your new home like the locals do – find the best place for local grub, browse the funkiest marketplaces, check out a gallery or theatre, or spend an afternoon frolicking in a park. Having these mini-adventures to look forward to can help get you through study sessions.

Travel Even Further Abroad: Take the time to explore surrounding regions or countries. There are usually cheap travel options regardless of where you are and, chances are, you can get away and back in just a few days. Yes, you should study hard, but don’t let incredible travel (and learning) opportunities go to waste. No regrets.

Hold Potlucks: Eating couscous, soup and beans every night can become a little tiresome, so start a weekly potluck with friends! Chatting over delicious food is a great way to get to know your fellow students. Ask everyone to bring a traditional dish from their country, and you might just find a new favourite recipe. (Another option: pick a theme for the dinner and get creative.) You have to eat either way, so make the most of it rather than eating all your meals in front of the computer. 

Whatever you do, enjoy every minute of your experience. (Except for exams; you are not required to enjoy those.)

Helen Beynon is a sustainability strategist, writer and artist based out of Vancouver, Canada. Her environmental adventures have taken her to Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Micronesia and, of course, London. You can read more of her musings on her blog at hmbeynon.wordpress.com.

This is the winning article from the Verge Storyboard for the week of May 2, 2011. Check out the storyboard here and submit your own story!

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