Whether a traveler is currently being treated for a mental health condition or if it’s considered something of the past, preparing for and participating in any new experience can bring about a return or increase in symptoms. Additionally, other changes, such as in air quality, elevation, diet or climate as well as stress factors related to culture and language can exacerbate symptoms, or even create new ones. Furthermore, extended travel also results in the loss of a support network, a routine, and a familiar environment. Any one of these changes or a combination of several changes can impact a traveler’s mental health.
Since it is always easier to prevent or respond to difficulties if they have been anticipated ahead of time, use this guide to prepare for mental health care and services abroad.
Here are a few guidelines and resources to better address mental health needs:
- Meet with your mental health provider prior to departure to discuss any anxieties, depression, or other mental health issues that may impact your experience. Such conversations can help in identifying resources in a education abroad destination.
- Feeling bouts of homesickness and loneliness can be common while studying abroad. Maintaining a strong support system at home and abroad can help cope with those feelings.
- Culture shock can be difficult for many students. Keep in mind that part of studying abroad is learning about and experiencing new cultures, and that you will soon adapt to your new surroundings.
If you feel like you or a friend would benefit from additional resources prior to studying abroad, contact the USC Counseling Center at any time. Additionally, if you or a friend experience mental health issues while abroad, please reach out to the main Education Abroad Office at 803-777-7557 or to any of the staff in our office.
Prior to or during the education abroad experience, USC education abroad students may also offer free online therapy sessions and other mental health support through Thrive@Carolina. Thrive@Carolina offers a range of benefits for students, even when they're traveling internationally. These include:
- A 24/7/365 mental health support line for in-the-moment support from counselors and linkages to next steps, regardless of time of day or your location. Students can call (833) 664-2854 to reach the 24/7 support line.
- Telehealth per occurrence or off campus face-to-face counseling sessions. These are available to students no matter where they are (on or off campus, any state or internationally) and no insurance necessary.
- One-on-one personal assistance for students to help navigate any challenges or barriers students may face in reaching mental health support. This includes assistance with accessing mental health providers, specialty providers, housing and food supports and or other services that will help support your academic success.
- “The Wellness Hub” which includes articles and videos on mental health and wellness topics including Mental and Emotional Health, Fitness and Nutrition, Academic Performance, Stress Management, Healthy Relationships and more. To access the Wellness Hub, visit thriveatcarolina.com or download the CampusWell app and search for University of South Carolina.
It's sometimes possible for students to meet with an English-speaking mental health professional while on-site in their host country. Sometimes, it's even possible to meet with a counselor who specializes in working with college students. To get connected with an on-site professional, please reach out to your on-site staff or the USC Education Abroad Office. Each U.S. Embassy website also maintains a list of English-speaking mental health providers in the local area.