Taking a leap and deciding to study abroad for a semester is a courageous move. For many students, it’s their first time facing the world as a completely independent person, untethered by the usual binds of home and family. Though they’re still in a very safe environment, surrounded by people willing to guide them every step of the way, studying abroad can be challenging.
There are multiple different ways that students can prepare themselves mentally and emotionally for the experience of going abroad for school. Knowing ahead of time how to ready yourself for a transformative new experience can help you extract the most value out of it. John Cabot University psychologist Carolina Meucci and JCU Interim Dean of Students Carla Wiegers shared some advice for how to prep yourself. Read on to find out their tips and what resources JCU has available for students.
Study Abroad Students Should Ready their Mindsets
Because studying abroad can be such a radically different experience, there is significant mental preparation that they should undertake before traveling to avoid shock. “Put yourself in the mindset that you’re going to be learning all the time, not just in the classroom,” Carla Wiegers recommends. Adaptability, flexibility, cultural sensitivity, comfort with uncertainty, open-mindedness, and self-awareness are just some of the skills that students might want to build while studying abroad as they will turn out to be very helpful.
Being immersed in a culturally and socially different environment is an education as well, and one that can bring about radical change in a person’s sense of self. The challenges students will face are an opportunity for growth: finding meaning in what they are struggling with and choosing how to respond to the situation will help them feel more in control and capable to cope effectively.
Ms. Wiegers advises that students try and remain open to the transformations that can come from within and from relationships with others in a different environment. “So many opportunities for radical change can be destabilizing, but know that it’s temporary, and be open to the challenge,” she advises.
Dr. Carolina Meucci adds that it isn’t just negative changes that can trigger stress and anxiety, but positive ones as well. “Students should think about whether they’re ready to embrace change. Think about what changes you’ve already faced in your life and the ways in which you’ve handled them,” she counsels. Students should wisely reflect on what their strengths are and how they can apply those strengths to new situations.
Another important skill is to set up realistic expectations on what your experience should be, by realigning them with your initial motivation to study abroad. Did you decide to study abroad in Rome to push yourself out of your comfort zone, experience a new culture, or maybe learn more about yourself? It can help to remember this in moments where things feel difficult.
Mental Health Services Are Widely Available at JCU
Though we are all resilient and have our inner resources that we can use to tackle new, challenging situations, there are also external support systems available. “It’s never problematic to reach out. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out to your support system and investigate the counseling services available to you,” Ms. Wiegers advises. There can be a certain stigma attached to counseling, but it’s accessible to anyone, not just those with severe mental health difficulties.
At John Cabot University, students can access free and confidential counseling services both in-person and online, as well as emotional support groups, mindfulness groups, two psychiatrists, and a 24/7 emergency line staffed by JCU employees. “If you ever feel like you want to talk to someone, that’s the right time to investigate these services. And if you find that they aren’t right for you, you’re free to stop using them at any time,” Ms. Wiegers says.
The Medical Services and Protocols in Place at JCU During Coronavirus
Beyond mental health, there are a variety of services available at John Cabot University to help those who study in Italy have a successful year. When students arrive in Italy, there is a mandated 14-day quarantine to protect against transmission of the coronavirus. Those in quarantine will have the support of JCU’s administration, with private transportation, on-site staff, online mental health counseling, and 24/7 medical assistance available.
Classroom capacity has been adapted to accommodate social distancing protocols, and alcohol-based sanitizers are readily available across JCU’s campuses. Students can rest assured that JCU is taking charge to make studying abroad the safest, healthiest experience possible. This is done without compromising the quality of education.
Ready to jump-start your future and study abroad in Rome?
Contact John Cabot University for more information!