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My name is Thelma Solis, and I am majoring in Psychology and Foreign Languages (Spanish) at New Mexico State University. I was fortunate to receive a TODOS scholarship that helped me have the most memorable summer in Barcelona, during which I completed an internship at a clinical psychology office. I chose to share my experience with anxiety abroad because it is an expected feeling that many of us have. If you are someone like me, who has social anxiety or experiences anxiety, then the idea of studying abroad can seem even scarier. But don’t worry! If I did it, anyone can – and here’s how.

What gave me anxiety

  • Fear of not being able to make new friends
  • Breaking my phone abroad
  • Cultural differences in the workplace
  • Being alone
  • My health & safety

Before my program, I was very nervous about being alone in a different country and not being able to make any friends. Most importantly, I was scared I wouldn’t have a support system.

During my first week, I broke my phone and was virtually isolated for a day. I could only communicate through my laptop and struggled to get to places because I had no phone for directions.

At my internship, I quickly noticed the cultural differences. It wasn’t bad, I just had to adapt. I was also anxious about my safety in such a big city. But Barcelona is a safe city – just take your precautions and protect your items from pickpocketers.

Tips on how to cope with anxiety

  • Meditate or practice mindfulness
  • Take a moment to breathe and relax
  • Don’t be shy to ask people around you for help (roommates, homestay family, friends, Barcelona SAE team, etc.)
  • Talk to your family and friends at home whenever you get the opportunity
  • Utilize Barcelona SAE’s mental health resources
  • Know you’re not alone
  • Remember that everything comes to pass

Regarding social anxiety, it is important to remember that everyone is in the same boat – traveling alone to a foreign country. You will be surrounded by other students who also want to make friends to explore Barcelona with! An easy way to make friends is during orientation, in class, and during the Barcelona SAE cultural activities and excursions. I would highly encourage you to participate in these, as they’re included in the program and they’re great for making new friends. If you are introverted, that’s ok! Barcelona has a lot for you to do on your own. However, I wouldn’t shy away from meeting others in the program (or locals!) as it is so much fun, and they can be your support system abroad.
Looking back, I should’ve taken advantage of the mental health resources, as my program insurance offered multiple free therapy sessions during my summer term. I would highly recommend looking into this, because it is always good to check in with yourself and have someone listen to you.

How to problem solve

  • Take one step at a time (break down the tasks you need to do to fix your problem)
  • Utilize the resources in the Barcelona SAE Student Guide

When my phone broke, I looked up directions on my laptop, wrote them down, and was able to get to an electronics repair shop, a cellphone carrier store, and even to my internship. I also contacted my friend through GroupMe to help me get to a shop to buy a new phone with a Spanish SIM card. Breaking my phone was the most stressful thing that happened to me in Barcelona, but it taught me that truly every problem has a solution. I just had to pull myself together! It is so important to keep an open mind and be as flexible as possible. Things don’t always turn out perfectly, and that’s ok!
It’s also important to remember that you have the Barcelona SAE Student Guide as a resource. Save it on your phone and bookmark it on your computer so that you always have access to it, as it has so much information! The Barcelona SAE Student Guide guided me through most of the challenges I had during my stay in Barcelona.

The good news

  • You develop many skills (cultural competency, communication skills, etc.)
  • You make lifelong friends
  • You get to know Barcelona like a local
  • You Increase your confidence
  • You have so much fun

There truly is a rainbow after every storm. Even though there will be stressful times while studying abroad, you will come out of it with a new sense of self-sufficiency, independence, and confidence while having the best time of your life! The Barcelona SAE team is very supportive but also highly encourages you to problem-solve before contacting the team or calling their emergency phone number. This helped me build character while knowing I could always rely on them if I needed it. Most importantly, it is so worth it! You will have so much fun, and the good times will outweigh the bad ones!

Thelma Solis

Thelma is a Psychology and Foreign Languages (Spanish) major at New Mexico State University. During her Barcelona SAE program in Summer 2023, she completed an internship at a clinical psychology office.

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