Being abroad is a great and exciting experience, but it can also take a toll on you, whether that be mentally or physically. Everyone is affected somehow, but in my experience, I think it can be a bit challenging for us introverts, especially when living with a host family. I am very appreciative of my host family here in Costa Rica and I’m happy I was placed with them, but sometimes all of the constant interaction can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips that I have tried doing while I’m abroad if I feel my social battery running low.
Spend time alone to recharge
While it is good to spend time with your family, or other people in your study abroad program, it is also important to take time to recharge, which is essential for many introverts. Sometimes my brain just feels tired from always communicating in another language and so does my body from interacting with people. To help with this, I’ll spend some time in my room alone and do something relaxing. Sometimes I will do any homework I have, which is not always the most relaxing but it keeps me busy while recharging. I’ll also maybe read, watch a show I like on Netflix, or take a nap. All of these are ways I can spend time alone and get rest from social activities.
Call people from back home
This may sound a bit contradictory, but I also may call people from back home, typically my family, while I’m in my room. There is still interaction with people, but for me, it feels comforting because I am able to talk to people I’m familiar with. I am very close with my family and they know me so well it almost doesn’t feel like I’m socializing. We are all used to relating to each other. As a result, doing so feels effortless to me in a social aspect. While living in a new country where everything is different than you’re used to, talking with people that bring you comfort can put you more at ease and bring some familiarity to your experience.
Go out and explore
For the first few weeks that I was in Costa Rica, I didn’t go out and do much on my free days since I was still getting adjusted and meeting people in my program. As a result, I stayed in the house a lot with my host family. While I enjoyed spending time with them, I was getting a bit worn out. Once I finally started exploring Heredia, the city I’m living in while abroad, I felt less overwhelmed. It could be as simple as getting smoothies at a restaurant across the street from campus or something as eventful as traveling to another town in Costa Rica for the weekend.
Being able to explore where you’re living can help to relieve the stress that being social sometimes brings. Even though I traveled and did those things with other people, it felt like a break from my normal routine of going to class and then coming home to speak Spanish with my host family. It felt a little bit more liberating because we were able to speak English to each other. For me, speaking Spanish sometimes adds extra stress in addition to socializing for long periods of time. I felt like I had a small break.
Remind yourself it’s ok to take a break
I know for me, I can sometimes feel like I have to be social all the time and interact with my host family all the time so I don’t appear to be isolating myself from them. While it is important to spend time with them to practice my Spanish and to get to know them better, taking a break for yourself is also just as important. It’s ok to be more introverted. Just make sure you take the necessary time you need to recharge so you don’t feel burnt out. Everyone does so in different ways, but these are a few that I have done while abroad that have proven to be effective.
Read one of my previous blogs bout managing the stress of adjusting to the language barrier!