WSN Abroad: Celine Roest
WSN Abroad is a column where Wolverine Support Network leaders share their experiences managing their mental health and wellness while studying abroad. From Argentina to Italy to Australia, these students recognize the importance of prioritizing mental health no matter where they are. Follow along for stories of travel, exploration, and self-care!
Wolverine Support Network is a student organization and community on campus that seeks to address and promote student mental health and well-being through weekly, peer-facilitated support groups and bi-weekly stress-busting events. To learn more or sign up for a group, visit http://umichwsn.org.
I don’t usually get stressed out easily. I can wait until the eleventh hour to finish important assignments without worry. I’ve juggled 18 credits, a part-time job, a leadership position in my sorority, multiple clubs, commitments with friends, and more fairly easily without breaking a sweat. When I get busy, sad, lonely, or angry, I always know in the back of my mind that it’ll pass, I’ll be okay, and if not now, then soon. I’m the type of person that takes things in stride, keeps my head up, and doesn’t let things overwhelm me. I’ve been blessed with an unwavering outlook on life that everything will get done, and that everything will, eventually, be okay.
However, despite my general positive attitude and ability to stay on top of my life, I am still constantly being pulled in different directions, which takes its toll on me, both mentally and physically. My life at school, like almost everyone else’s in college, is stressful. I also often find myself unable to sleep at night, constantly thinking about things I have no control over; this is always much more unnerving than small worries like an unfinished term paper or a bad grade on an exam. As college has gone on, I’ve become increasingly anxious over the “big stuff” – feeling inadequate, alone, unhealthy, and exhausted. Though a packed schedule and the occasional setback would never overwhelm me, larger issues with family and friends, my future, and my own feelings of self-doubt and insecurity would constantly nag at me all day, every day, gnawing away at my mental well-being and providing more than enough anxiety to leave me feeling buried. Studying abroad seemed like a chance to get away from all of that, a time where I could instead focus on experiencing a new culture and exploring a new environment (and, obviously, finding the best patatas bravas in Spain).
I’ve been living in Barcelona for over two months now, studying international business during the week and traveling through Europe on the weekends. Put simply, this has done wonders for my overall health, especially mentally. My classes are easier, my commitments fewer, and the utter lack of winter and endless sun has put me in an almost constant good mood (thank you, serotonin). I’ve broken out of my comfort zone and made so many new friends, tried countless new things, and gained a new outlook on the world that has only come from separating myself from my normal environment and gaining a little perspective. The United States and all of my obligations and worries there have never seemed further away. I feel more centered, mindful, and confident than I have in a long, long time.
That’s not to say that studying abroad has been completely stress-free, because it absolutely hasn’t. But, the separation of my normal life back home from this new adventure has allowed me to put everything in perspective. Sure, living here and traveling so much is outrageously expensive, and jetting off to a new place every weekend can be exhausting, but I’m experiencing so much and learning about the world first-hand in ways I never could have before coming here, which makes everything worth it. I still don’t have an internship lined up for the summer, as my ever-growing to-do list likes to remind me every day, but that’s something that I can actively work to accomplish. Homework and obligations for my job tend to pile up since I’m always trying to explore Barcelona between classes instead of study, but that’s nothing a few hours in a cute new coffee shop once a week can’t fix. Problems here seem further away, less life-altering, and more solvable. I have a sense of freedom and calm about me that I haven’t experienced since starting college.
Unfortunately, my time here in Barcelona will be over before I know it as I fly back to Michigan in about five weeks. My old minor stresses and worries may return, and the larger, more serious anxieties and insecurities may as well, but I’ll be even better equipped to deal with them. I’m hoping that through conscious effort, I’ll be able to take my “abroad state of mind” back to the USA with me, blocking the old negativity from creeping back into my brain and instead working to remember the best parts of living abroad: the feelings of freedom, the joy of new experiences, and the amazing new friendships that I’ll cherish long after I leave. I’m returning to the United States a happier, healthier, and more confident young woman, something I’ve been working towards for so long. This semester abroad has been exactly what I’ve needed to remind myself of who I am, what I’m worth, and what I’m capable of.