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Balancing Mental Health While Abroad

Posted on January 10, 2018


Diversity Abroad stays engaged with its scholars and ambassadors and has been able to ask them questions in reflection of their study abroad experience. During Ewan’s study abroad experience in Italy they were able to reflect on mental health and how their travels embedded a greater sense of confidence. These reflections are shared below:

Ewan Johnson Student Story Rome

Why did you decide to study abroad?

When I first made the decision to go abroad, I was a Freshman in college and had just started taking Italian language courses again. I happened to see the amount of people that went abroad to Italy and I said, “I want this for myself, but also for my language development and possibly career goals.” I started reading articles and watching Youtube videos from people that had visited and it only excited me even more. I immediately mapped out my schedule for the coming semesters and figured out when I would be able to go. It ended up not happening until junior year of college, but it was all so worth it.

How did you pay for your study abroad experience?

In order for me to be able to afford to study abroad in Rome, I did a host of things. One of which was devoting an entire day to finding scholarships and applying and the other was reaching out to my schools study abroad department. The advisors were a lot of help in this process and such a useful resource to direct my path. I ended up being awarded with the Diversity Abroad scholarship and also, received a study abroad grant from my university’s study abroad office.

What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?

I wish I would have known the hair/personal product constraints that were awaiting me while in Italy. In terms of appearance, that was one of my concerns. Also, I wish I would have had a better idea of the conversion rate and how much different items would cost me.

For those wishing to go abroad, I would say do not let the negative things you read or hear determine what the experience will be like for your. If you know of or experience something negative, try not to focus on it. Try to pick out the good throughout all of your experiences and don't let the chance that something may happen to you stop you from having such a life-changing experience.

Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?

I self identify as an African-American male with ADHD. While in Italy, I experienced quite a few incidents involving my external appearance, but they were mainly focused around the concept of nationality and the perceptions that America is only white people. When I first heard this, I was definitely taken back, but as time went on I was able to see this as my opportunity to challenge people’s thinking and perceptions. Then, when it came to my ADHD, I struggled immensely. The medication that I was prescribed was not allowed in Italy, so I had to navigate my experience on a new medicine in a new setting very wisely. I realized that the medicine was not helping me out at all with my disability, so I made the decision to not take it and to start researching alternative methods and really challenge myself. I was able to form a system that worked for me and I found it to be very effective.

How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?

Personally, I believe that my confidence has gone up immensely since I've returned from abroad. I’m finding that I am less hesitant when it comes to the decision making process and I am able to better hold my own opinions on things. I tackled the racial, language and disability challenge, so it would only be right that I felt on top of the world when all of this was finally over. In terms of academics, I believe that due to my course selection, I was able to learn way more about global politics and perceptions. I went into the study abroad program as a sponge and I feel I was able to take in so much more information this way.


Want to continue to engage after you’ve returned from your study abroad experience? Attend the Global Student Leadership Conference, Volunteer at the Diversity Abroad Conference, or share your story with us! Email with questions.

Author: Ewan Johnson

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