Moving overseas to an unfamiliar environment is an exciting experience, but it can also be a challenging one. It’s totally normal to go through a range of emotions during your time away from home, granted the journey is unique for everyone.
While being surrounded by a new culture can be stressful and overwhelming at times, there are steps you can take and resources Cultural Vistas offers to help ease the transition.
At Cultural Vistas, our commitment to ensuring the health and well-being of our participants led us to partner with Talkspace, a global online therapy and counseling platform, to provide individuals taking part in our international programs with free, on-demand access to counseling services as they navigate life away from home.
Below are some tips and resources to help you adjust to living in a new environment.
Surround yourself with supportive people
Whether it be to get advice, ask questions or vent about dealing with a new culture, having people to talk to can help you adjust to your life abroad. Identify various sources of support, like your Cultural Vistas staff contact, coworkers, friends, and family that you can rely on. Staying connected with friends and family back home can also help the adjustment. Emails, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, WeChat, WhatsApp are great tools to stay connected across borders. You can also find like-minded people in your local area through websites like Meetup. They have a wide range of groups that get together to practice languages, drawing, photography, dance and so much more.
Get to Know Your Country
Living abroad is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in your host country’s culture. Look for opportunities to participate in activities with other students, interns and trainees in your area, and consider volunteering for an organization related to your interests. Volunteer Match is a great resource to identify opportunities to give back in your area.
If you’re in the New York region, Cultural Vistas provides local participant events through its partnership with One to World. We also offer excursions around the country, which is a great chance to travel with other Cultural Vistas participants. If you want to improve your business English while interning in the U.S., you have the opportunity to pursue additional language study via our partnership with Kaplan International.
It’s no myth that exercise can also help your mental health! Most cities have parks with walking, biking or hiking trails or you can look into gym memberships in your area. You may find that your area has running groups and bike shares, like ones suggested by New York Road Runners. Bike share is great for short trips around town or for leisurely rides. Use it to commute to work or school, run errands, and explore the city. Citibike can be found in New York City and Miami, Capital Bike Share in Washington D.C., Hubway in Boston and Divvy in Chicago.
Relax and reflect at home
Everyone manages stress differently. To identify what works for you, take time to touch base with yourself about how you’re feeling. Keeping a journal can help with this. Resources like TED talks on self-care and this self-care test can also help you understand what you need to make your time abroad more enjoyable. Need help relaxing? Try practicing mindfulness and meditation – for example, Headspace offers a free subscription to use the app on your smartphone.
Seek counseling when you need it
Cultural Vistas became the first international exchange organization to offer on-demand online therapy this past September. We partner with Talkspace to provide eligible participants unlimited access to online counseling services for everyday issues at no cost. The service is anonymous and Talkspace won’t share your information with anyone, including Cultural Vistas. This new partnership won the 2018 GoAbroad Innovation Awards in the category of Most Innovative Use of Technology.
Exchange participants enrolled in our U.S.-bound standard insurance plan on or after September 6, 2017, and those with all plans starting on the new policy year who are enrolled on or after April 30, 2018, are eligible to receive a voucher code to sign up here.
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Don’t forget, Cultural Vistas is always here for you. We can help provide you with additional resources and assist you in any way we can. Please feel free to contact your Responsible Officer with any issues regarding wellness during your program.
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