When I was going into studying abroad in Sydney, I was overwhelmed with excitement/nervousnesses/etc. I knew it was supposed to be one of the best times of my life, but I couldn’t help but worry about how I would handle being in a completely unfamiliar place. I had a few specific worries that I’ll admit… I was worried about working out (would I join a gym? how often would I workout).. I was worried about the food, obviously (would there be food similar to what I’m used to? would there be enough vegetarian/pescetarian options? Would I like the food? how would my kitchen be).. and I was worried about the drinking (I know I shouldn’t care..but I don’t like to drink more than a few times a week..but will I have to go out? Will I be able to keep up).
I am not ashamed to admit it because I know I am not alone in those worries.. and to be honest, I would have loved to read about someone who had been abroad while dealing with their eating disorder recovery and thoughts.
I can’t believe it has been almost 4 months that I’ve been in Australia… it has been such an experience and there have been plenty of challenges and victories along the way.
Even though I haven’t handled every situation the way I would have hoped, I have realized that the only reasonable way to survive abroad while worrying about things like food/exercise/drinking is to just stop. Stop worrying.
I know this is easier said than done, TRUST me. But to stop worrying means to just take it day by day. I know mindfulness has always been something that people have preached about, but it really is true. When you’re abroad, you should be open to trying new things and experiencing the culture… I mean can you imagine someone from Europe coming to New York for the first time and not trying New York Pizza? So the key is to try new things.. but don’t go overboard (and if you do, it’s ok but try to eat a little better the next day). Obviously sometimes you’ll go overboard (I definitely did) but I’ve also tried to eat in a way that will make my body feel good enough to want to do things while I”m here. Because let’s be honest..even though stuffing your face is fun sometimes, it never really makes you feel good.
And as for exercise- it’s actually a piece of cake. I’ve had many days in Sydney that I’ve spent the day walking around the city and realizing later how much exercise I actually got doing that. Being in a new place is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of walking– you not only get exercise, but you also get to explore. On days where I’m just too lazy… I either try and go to the gym in my apartment building, or I take the day off.
Drinking is a bit more complicated. I have realized that although drinking sometimes is fun, a lot of times I just don’t like doing it. I’ve gotten through the semester by listening to my body and only going out drinking when I am in the mood. I know for a lot of people, drinking and going out while abroad is a huge part of their experience, and of course for me it is too.. it just isn’t the most important part. I’m ok with the fact that I’m not someone who is going to go out 5 nights a week. I still do go out at least 2 times a week (4 max probably), but I know that is all I can handle. and honestly.. sometimes I’d rather just go to a cool bar and have a couple drinks wtih friends than go to some loud club that, to be honest, isn’t as fun when you’re not drunk.
Another thing I’ve learned is that if you are used to having a certain type of support (like therapy for me), then it is a good idea to try to continue that support abroad if possible. I made the mistake of assuming I wouldn’t need a therapist while I’ve been in Sydney and I think it would have made some things a lot easier if I would have had one.
so all in all.. going abroad with an eating disorder history if very possible, and in fact I’d 100% recommend it. But I do think it is hard.. it has been hard. But it has also been amazing. I’m not going to lie, I haven’t felt my best about myself while being here but I’ve tried my hardest to not let it effect me too much because in a month all of this will just be a memory, and I want it to be a good one.
Have any of you guys experienced living abroad? What did you learn from it?