Dealing with Study Abroad Stress

by Clarke Wheeler

It is mid-November, and many students are stressing out about their ongoing midterms (which are not actually “midterms”) and passionately anticipating Thanksgiving Break (thank goodness that’s happening). There are also many students who, along with schoolwork, jobs, friends, and family, must worry about their visa applications. These students are studying abroad next semester and, while they are about to embark on what could potentially be the best experience of their young lives, preparing for this experience can be very overwhelming. Here are a few of the things students studying abroad stress over and some tips for alleviating this stress!

When you fill out your Visa Application:

There are so many parts to this application, you feel like you’ve been narrowed down to a 2”x 2” passport photo from Rite Aid and an FBI Background Check deciding whether or not you’re a good person.

When you get the email from Barnard saying your housing has been cancelled:

Sure, you don’t need Barnard housing next semester, but you still feel betrayed by the place that’s been taking care of you the past few years!

When your program uploads random forms and readings a few at a time that never seem to end:

Why not all at once? Why make me feel accomplished and then make me feel like a failure again a few days later?

When you realize you don’t actually know the language:

You definitely understand how to order drinks, but you’re sure you’ll fail the classes taught in the foreign language. You also won’t understand people’s jokes or your home-stay family ever. Basically, it will be difficult to learn, laugh, or speak, but at least you can order drinks!

When you realize no one from Barnard or Columbia is in your program, let alone your country:

It’s like college all over again! You have to start from scratch even though you forgot how to make friends and be a “normal” person.

When you get FOMO because all your friends are program-filing and you’re just hoping you’ll be able to translate your syllabi next semester:

For the first time ever, you’re sad you aren’t getting the same emails about program filing and scouring course catalogs.

Here’s how to deal:


It’s what friends and family are for! After a while of expressing the same complaints, you’ll realize you have a lot more to be excited about than to be scared of.

Embrace this new culture!

Watch movies, listen to music, eat new foods, and just try to get a taste of the culture before you go.

Social Media Presence!

Hello, you’re about to have such an amazing Instagram feed and so many potential profile pictures! Perhaps this is shallow, but it’s a fact that can’t be ignored.

New Experiences and People!

Everyone gets a little sick of the daily or weekly grind at school or at home. Studying abroad gives you the chance to escape, see the world in a new way, and change yourself after having new experiences and meeting new people!

Fast Forward!

Think about how amazing you’ll be when you come back. You will have taken on a challenge, possibly increased your language skills, and become a more worldly person. Maybe you’ll have more of an understanding of your place in the world and have ideas about changing the world in the future! You’ll just be an overall awesome person. So please don’t be sad you’re missing Bacchanal, you’ll be having a lot more fun travelling the world!

Clarke Wheeler is a junior at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Giphy.


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