Studying abroad is fun and exciting. It’s a time to explore and practice being more independent than you may be used to. Your host country may be completely different than your home country, or it may be pretty similar, either way, culture shock still exists. In order to productively cope with the culture shock you may experience, it’s important to stay grounded and create habits and rhythms that keep you healthy physically, mentally, and socially.
Here are some of the things that I have added into my routine while in Ecuador to help support my complete wellbeing:
- Getting outside or in the gym.
One of my favorite things that I do regularly is to exercise. Whether it’s a workout in the gym of my hotel, a hike up a mountain, or a walk through the park, exercise always helps me clear my mind. Getting outside is an excellent way to explore your new host city and learn more about it. My time outside has been where I have seen the true beauty of my host country, Ecuador.
Some of the parks I’ve visited have been Parque Carolina, a beautiful park in the middle of the city that features a walking track, sports courts, and playgrounds among other things, (2) Parque Metropolitano, which is very natural and twice the size of Central Park in NYC, and (3) Parque Bicentenario, which stretches 1.5 miles of walking paths, bike trails and playgrounds on the backdrop of a disused airport.
My favorite hiking adventure was to Volcán Ilaló, a long extinct volcano that last erupted 1.6 milion years ago. While it was a difficult hike because it was almost straight up, the view was definitely worth it. From the summit you can see all of the other mountains surrounding the city in a 360 view!
2. Going to church
Since I’ve been in Quito, I have gone to church every Sunday that I was in town. After being connected with the cousin of a friend who lives in Spartanburg, I started going to Iglesia Alianza La Luz, a protestant church with a focus on serving the local community. I have gained a deeper immersion into the culture of my host city this way. Through singing worship songs and listening to sermons in Spanish, I have improved my vocabulary; I have also built relationships with community members. Exploring religious organizations can be a great way to support your spiritual wellbeing while being abroad as well.
3. Taking time to keep in touch with family and friends back home.
Being 2500 miles away from my family and friends can be hard sometimes, but technology has definitely made this distance feel not quite as far. A few times a week I catch up with my family, my boyfriend and my friends back at Wofford with Facetime, Whatsapp video call, or Zoom. Using technology to talk with my friends and family has been a great way to stay grounded with my support system while being away. It doesn’t make me miss them any less though!
Study abroad has been one of the best decisions I have made and these habits have allowed me to stay healthy and connected and be better able to handle coping with culture shock. I hope these tips help you in your time abroad as well!