Navigating the World: The Impact of Studying Abroad on My Mental Health

The decision to study abroad was one of the most challenging yet exciting choices I’ve ever made. Being extremely attached to home, leaving my family, friends, and the familiar landscapes of Pakistan was a nerve-wracking thought. However, it was a dream I’d held onto for as long as I could remember, and I knew such opportunities didn’t come by so easily; hence, I made the jump. 


 My first few months in Providence, Rhode Island, were a whirlwind of emotions. Adapting to a new culture, new people, a different education system, and being away from home altogether was difficult. There were moments of frustration and homesickness that tested my resilience from time to time. I missed my family’s comforting presence, my friends’ familiar faces, and the flavors of homecooked desi meals. I missed Karachi. 


But it wasn’t all hardship. These challenges forced me to grow in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I learned from my mistakes. I learned to be independent, to communicate effectively, to face uncertainty head-on, and most importantly to not take anything too seriously. I met incredible people from all around the world–Malaysia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, and so on–fostering friendships that transcended borders and cultures. The academic environment at Brown encouraged me to think critically and explore new perspectives, which, in turn, enriched my understanding of the world and my place in it.


One of the aspects of studying abroad that impacted my mental health was the pressure to perform. The academic rigor and the competition could, at times be quite intense. I began to question my abilities and feel the weight of imposter syndrome. Quite frankly, I felt as if I didn’t deserve to be in such an amazing place. However, the community at Brown helped me manage these feelings. As I met more people and opened up to friends, I realized that I wasn’t alone in my feelings. We were all just imposters trying to find our path in life.


Overcoming these challenges made me feel stronger. I discovered my passion for Cognitive science and the importance of having a support system, or a group of people you can trust with your struggles. I started working out regularly and practicing mindfulness and meditation, which also helped me find inner peace and balance in the midst of my hectic schedule.


As I now sit here reflecting on my journey, I can confidently say that studying abroad has had a profound impact on my mental health and personal growth. It has challenged me, tested me, and, ultimately, strengthened me. Studying abroad isn’t just about academics; it’s about personal growth, cultural exchange, and self-discovery. I’ve learned that stepping out of my comfort zone was the best decision I could have made. It’s given me a new outlook on life, a deep appreciation for the power of resilience, and an understanding of the importance of self-care and mental health.

Author: Mahnoor Elahi

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