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Mental Health Struggles When Moving Abroad

How are you supposed to feel when you move away from home? Scared? Excited? Worried? There is no right answer here, and frequently it becomes an unintelligible cocktail of emotions.

Hi! I’m Madison, a 20-year-old New York native living abroad in the Czech Republic. I am an avid reader and music lover who can usually be found creating made-up worlds. My passion lies in telling stories others can relate to or see themselves within.

Meet Madison Codoner!

When I moved to Prague for university, I finally felt like the pieces of my life were starting to fall into place. I had been dreaming about getting my degree in Europe ever since I was in middle school, watching videos about a girl studying abroad in Ireland and imagining the place where my grandmother grew up.

However, as soon as reality began to set in, I realized that living abroad wasn’t the sunshine and rainbows I had believed it to be. It started with the culture shocks of grocery shopping in a different language and getting used to a completely new transport system, and continued with the realities of working out the mechanics of a brand-new city and the new stamp of adulthood.

I realized that, while I had begun to make friends, I still felt extremely alone and didn’t have the familiarity of a support system. I would call my family and cry, wondering why something I had wanted for so long felt so wrong. I desperately missed my siblings and closely bordered on the verge of tears the first time I stepped into the American Candy Store.

Most of my anxiety stemmed from this sort of spiraling, which exacerbated the existing internal problems I thought would go away when I moved abroad. I am not saying that I should have had everything figured out before I moved (I still have no idea what I am doing), but I think I should have done more to help fix the problems I knew existed.

My whole first semester, I contemplated going home and ended up trying out online therapy for two months to gain some control over my anxiety. While I knew some of my friends felt similarly, it was hard to believe that others were having such a hard time. Over social media, all I could see was all the exciting trips everyone was going on and nights out under club strobe lights (which I was guilty of going on too).

I felt like I was doing something wrong, having so many people support me when I didn’t feel like I was worthy of it.

View of Prague out of her window.

The stigma around mental health stopped me from reaching out for help, afraid of being called weak in the face of being handed this life-changing opportunity. The reality is that it is okay not to be okay when making such a huge life transition. You are not alone in the fear and anxiety you feel in this new and unsure period.

Mental Health Resources

If I could go back and speak to my eighteen-year-old self, I would tell her that it is always better to use the resources available to her than to let these feelings linger. I would recommend seeing if your university offers free counseling or, if you are able to, making an appointment with a psychologist in your native language. Most of all, it is important to acknowledge that everyone around you is feeling similar emotions; maybe they are just infinitely better at hiding them.

MyClinic - Family clinic in Prague for children and adults with a personal approach and professional care in a wide range of medical disciplines that cooperate with foreign insurance policies. - Online therapy sessions for English speakers with certified therapists.

Prague Integration - Providing foreigners with support, services, and events in the field of mental health They have a weekly support group.

Edited by Sophia Pedigo


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