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Health and Wellness While Abroad

Cultural Adaptation

We constantly hear the term “culture shock” thrown around, but what really is culture shock?    

We often experience a cycle called cultural adaptation when traveling abroad. Initially, we may only see the beauty and positive aspects of our new surroundings leading to every aspect of the new city and country seeming better than our home.  However, at some point the tide turns and we miss everything about home - from the food to the people. 

Sometimes we become disengaged, even withdrawn, from our current location and/or the friends we have made during this experience and focus more on the negatives present in our host country.  This is known as culture shock.  Eventually those feelings balance themselves out, and we find that we can appreciate the new culture we have been immersed in, while also appreciating our home culture.

Ways to Mitigate Culture Shock/Manage Mental Health

As a new environment can trigger stress, anxiety, homesickness, depression and recurrence of previous mental health issues, here are some helpful to-dos before and while you are abroad:

Before Leaving:

  • Establish a strong support network composed of friends and/or family
    • Schedule regular times for video calls through apps such as WhatsApp, Zoom and WeChat
  • Consult with your therapist and/or psychiatrist  to maintain your treatment
  • Reflect on the relaxing/calming habits that you have developed and make sure to bring some of those item(s) with you to incorporate into your daily schedule
  • Learn about some of the cultural norms of the host country

While Abroad:

  • Get involved in the local community of the host institution and city, establishing a strong support network there 
  • Establish a regular routine, as similar to your routine at home, as possible
    • For example: if exercising regularly is something done at home, incorporate that into your routine in the host country
  • Continue routines/habits that are coping mechanisms
    • For example, stay in contact with your support network back home
  • Be open about these feelings, as many peers are experiencing them too
    • Share them with trusted individuals
    • Ask for help
    • Although away from Purchase, there is no need to be a stranger
      • Feel free to reach out to the OGE

How to Get Help From a Mental Health Professional While Abroad

With a more urgent need:

If you have a mental health provider in the US, use HealthiestYou.

        • Complete a questionnaire
        • Within 24 hours, you will be contacted by a counselor to schedule an appointment via phone or video.

If you do not have a mental health provider in the US, call 24/7 Crisis Support at 866-671-9302. 

Otherwise, reach out to UHC to find a psychiatrist and/or therapist in the area.