Mental Health & International Travel

International travel can be both fulfilling and challenging in various ways.  Be proactive in planning for how to manage your mental health while overseas.  

Each individual will experience culture shock and acclimate to a new culture in different ways.  Being away from home in a different country far from your family and friends can exacerbate existing medical conditions. It is also possible that the impact of cultural adjustments can create mental stress even for individuals with no prior history. It is important to learn to spot signs of distress in yourself and others.  

Behaviors to watch out for:

  • Substance use- Over-medicating/self-medicating
  • Sleep deprivation or disturbance
  • Change in eating habits; dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Seeming too tired and/or disinterested to participate in regular activities
  • Mood swings or erratic behavior
  • Stress, fear, panic, isolation, or anger

There are a wide array of disorders and conditions that you or a colleague/friend could face. Often the stress of traveling or living overseas can bring depression or anxiety bubbling to the surface. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or offer assistance if you see someone in need. 

Prior to Travel

We strongly recommend you meet with your medical provider or counselor to discuss how international travel may impact your mental health before you depart.  If you do not have an existing provider or counselor, Penn State Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can provide counseling services for students and also maintains a database of mental health providers located close to Penn State campuses as a resource for all students, faculty, and staff.  For students planning to study abroad, Global Programs highly encourages students to self-disclose any existing mental health conditions or to reach out to your Education Abroad Adviser if you are concerned about adjusting abroad so we can provide support services.  

If you anticipate you will want to see a counselor while you are overseas, you may contact United Healthcare Global directly at +1 410-453-6330 or Penn State's Global Safety Office at +1 404-790-2650 for assistance with identifying providers in your destination country before you travel.

What Global Programs Can Help With:

  • Help you set up regular doctor’s appointments while overseas
  • Determine whether any medication you are taking is available in your destination country
  • Direct you to resources available while you are overseas

Reminders

  • We are here to help!
  • Understand that ups and downs are normal during international travel. Monitor yourself and your state of well-being often, and seek support when needed.
  • A pound of prevention is worth and ounce of cure – preparation is the key to a successful international experience