I recently wrote a blog for the Union of Jewish Students about coping with mental health issues when you’re on a year abroad. I’m so pleased to say I had a really lovely response from people, expressing to me how they have felt the same way but they were not able to properly express these sentiments to their friends back home. So after those responses, I decided to speak more about my Year Abroad experience and how I have been looking after my mental health during this time.
When discussing the prospects of my Year Abroad with my brother last year, he explained to me that going on a Year Abroad can be hard enough when you have a healthy state of mind, but when you already have poor mental health, it can bring on challenges no shadow of a doubt. Not only are you are far away from home, but the culture is completely different to the one you’re used to, you don’t know anyone and the language spoken there could be one that you have limited speaking ability in let alone no speaking ability in.
For those of you who don’t already know, I’m currently spending my year in the South of France, in a truly diverse and beautiful city. When I arrived in September, the sun did not stop shining until mid November, which is something I’m not at all used to in the UK whatsoever. Arriving there, I took it in my stride, I pushed myself to get out there, to talk to people, to make myself speak French even if there were grammatical errors left right and centre. Now this was all well and good until I realised that being on a Year Abroad is not a 9 month long summer holiday. I know it may seem that way whenever you flick through your Instagram and Facebook feed seeing your friends spending their year in South America/Australia/Europe and all you’re thinking to yourself is..why didn’t I do a Year Abroad??
I’ve had people message me saying: “OMG, it looks like you’re having the time of your life!”, “I wish I was on the beach with you..currently writing my 5,000 word essay and it’s raining outside”. But what social media doesn’t show you is: my heightened social anxiety when I walk into a room of people I don’t even know, or when the supermarket cashier has to tell me x number of times that I need to weigh the fruit before I go to the till, or the times I’ve felt low and cried in my room because I miss my friends and family from back home.
So, as you can probably guess, this year has not been a non-stop train to Fun city, but it certainly has been one of the most eye-opening, exciting experiences in my life. I may have lost count of the number of lows and anxious moments I’ve had, but I can’t also tell you how proud I am of my achievement. For example, the many interesting conversations I’ve had with people from all over the world, how proud of myself that my French has improved, how many amazing places I’ve been to (see the image at the top- it’s a panoramic view of Rouen in Normandy) and last and by no means least, I have learnt so much about myself, which I would not have discovered if I was sitting in the library writing deadlines or sitting in lectures.
I recently listened to a Ted Talk by Kevin Breel, and this quote he says really explains what this year has been like for me: “As much as I hate some of the places…in my life depression has dragged me down to, in a lot of ways I’m grateful for it. Because yeah, it’s put me in the valleys, but only to show me there’s peaks, and yeah it’s dragged me through the dark but only to remind me there is light.” The point is, that no matter how many times I’ve decided to self-care, eat a bucket tonne of sushi, or binge watch Friends for the hundredth time, I’m proud of myself for getting through that moment and prioritising myself in that moment.
Lots of Love,
P.s If there’s anything in particular you’d like me to blog about, feel free to leave me a comment below :).