Mental Health Checklist Before Going Abroad

May 16, 2023
mental health checklist

From choosing a program to packing your suitcase, going abroad can involve a lot of preparation. As you get ready to go abroad with API, we recommend you also mentally prepare for your journey. Entering a completely new environment — one where you might not even speak the language of the host country— can be an adjustment for anyone. To get you started, we’ve created a suggested mental health checklist to help you prepare for going abroad.

Talk with Your Current Mental Health Providers 

First thing on your mental health checklist is to speak to your mental health providers. Along with applying for your visa and checking your passport, we recommend discussing your current care plan and strategies at home. Here are some ideas of questions to ask:

  • What are the most important parts of my care plan? What things help when I have experienced some bigger challenges in the past? Are those things available/accessible abroad?
  • Will my regular providers be able to continue working with me remotely while I’m away? If so, how will we communicate about appointment scheduling and logistics to ensure things go smoothly?
  • If I currently have prescription medication, can I get approval to have enough to take with me for the duration of the program? If I’m unable to bring enough, can they provide information (generic names, dosage information, documentation from them about the prescription, and what it is for) so I can share that with a local provider abroad? 
  • Important to note: API advises bringing all the medication you will need, if possible, as it can be difficult to refill medications abroad.

Talk with Your Network of Support at Home

Spending time away from your support system can be intimidating. That’s why it’s important to think about ways you can stay in touch with the people closest to you! Reflect on these questions: 

  • How is your support system normally there for you, especially in times of difficulty?
  • Can you brainstorm ways to continue receiving support while abroad?
  • How about scheduling a weekly video call? Or texting if you’re having a difficult time?

By making a plan with your support system, you’re bound to feel more comfortable taking the leap to study or intern abroad.

Watch for Communication from Your Student Success Director

Once committed to your program, you will receive an intro email from your Student Success Director with helpful information. It’s a great idea to reach out to them as you’re putting your care plan together, especially if you have any questions or concerns. Once they review your Health & Wellness form, they may also reach out to you in case you need any support, such as connecting with local mental healthcare providers.

Put Together Your Own Action Plan 

Another step in your mental health checklist: put together a plan! When you have a plan with steps to follow, you will know what to do if you are experiencing a mental health challenge. This could include things like:

  • Specific strategies you normally use like journaling, taking a walk, meditation, and so on.
  • Network of support, local resources, and how/when to contact them.
  • Emergency contact information for our on-site Resident Directors, and your mental health providers, if applicable, in case more immediate support is needed.

Words of Encouragement from a Student Just Like You

Sometimes, you can get the best advice from the students who have gone abroad before you. Take it from Meghan, who studied abroad with API, “My mental health tip while abroad is to force yourself to rest. It is so hard to have an early night in or a midday nap when there are so many exciting opportunities around you and you don’t want to miss out. But if you run yourself into the ground by trying to do it all, you will be miserable and too tired to really enjoy your time. Treat your study abroad like a lifestyle, not a jammed packed vacation.”

With these suggestions, we hope to help you be more fully prepared for your amazing experience! Feeling ready for your trip can encompass a lot of different things, and having a mental health checklist is crucial to a successful journey abroad. 

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can use the Chat Box on the lower left-hand side of our website, or send us an email at [email protected]. We promise a real, live human is there to help!


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