Hej alle, sorry for the delay in my weekly posts. There’s something I’ve been keeping out of my blog posts in order to maintain the facade of the happy study abroad experience. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression. My mental illness manifests in days where I can’t get out of bed and then I feel guilty because I should be having fun or doing homework. My anxiety manifests in panic attacks on the train into the city. Even though I travel by train everyday, transportation still gives me anxiety. I told the story of a happy study abroad experience to my friends and family. I’ve had a lot of fun experiences, but that’s not the full picture.
I thought a change of scenery would magically change me. I would figure out what I wanted to do, I would gain confidence, and I would become more worldly. But my teacher, who has been my mentor during this time, told me that “you carry yourself with you.” You bring your identity and your mental illnesses with you. I couldn’t leave my problems in the U.S.
Here is some advice for students studying abroad with mental illness(This is not a complete list. These are only tips that helped me):
- Don’t go off your medication before studying abroad, even though doctors may tell you that you can. Being in a different country is an incredibly stressful event. I went off my medication a year ago and I thought that I was fine for a few months. Just because I thought I was fine in the U.S., doesn’t mean the same will be true in a different country.
- DIS can get you an appointment with a psychiatrist in one week instead of the normal wait time of a few months. Just let them know what’s going on, and they can help you. You can also get reimbursed for the appointment fee and medication. I love Denmark’s welfare system.
- Stay in contact with a therapist from home if you have one. DIS can also get you a psychologist on-site.
- DIS also has daylight therapy lamps which can help you get through the weeks of grey skies. You can just email the care team and they will loan you one for free.
- Tell your teachers what’s going on. They can’t act as therapists, but they might have advice or help you stay on track with assignments.
- I made a list of all my positive memories abroad so that I can look back on them and be reminded of the good parts of studying abroad.
- Try not to stay in your room too much. It’s hard to balance alone time and social time when you’re an introvert, but isolating yourself is counterproductive. Hang out in the common room, talk to your host parents, go outside and find a natural area to walk in. You can find a nature path whether you’re in Copenhagen or Roskilde.
- Remember all that self care stuff. You know, take showers, brush your teeth, take breaks from school work, etc.
These are just a few tips. If I think of more, I will add them.
Now for the highlights of the past two weeks:
- DIS treated the student media team (bloggers, photographers, videographers, designers) to dinner at this fancy restaurant called Vækst. I got to chat with fellow student bloggers and enjoy a nice meal.
- On Wednesday, students from gender classes got to attend a Gender Bender event with workshops on Drag, Voguing, and feminist song writing. I took the Vogue workshop which was very hard, but fun.
- My Creative Nonfiction teacher invited the class to her house for a workshopping and pizza party. We bonded through sharing our very personal stories.
- My højskole had a music festival called Sound. The RoFH students spent the whole week preparing. There were performers from around Denmark as well as some RoFH students performing.
There are only two more weeks in this semester! I’m trying to get my work done and check things off my bucket list at the same time. Even though I did not travel as much as I had intended, I’ve done the best I could with the time I’ve had. There are still many more fun things ahead.