Mental illness abroad

The truth is, you’re not always going to be happy, no matter where you are. My program was 130 days total, just around 4 months. There were days when I wanted to stay in Australia forever, but there were also days when I wanted to board the next flight back home.

The time difference between Australia and my hometown in Colorado is 16 hours, before Daylight Savings Time. Most of my emotional breakdowns happened when everyone I knew was fast asleep. I felt an overwhelming amount of guilt if I woke them up, so I was forced to suffer alone. I wasn’t comfortable opening up to anyone here, I had not reached that level of confidence with anyone. When you are outside of the country alone, you have to be prepared to solve issues with little to no guidance from the people that you trust the most. This was the harshest reality I had to face when I was studying abroad in Tasmania.

Some days I couldn’t get out of bed. If you suffer from a mental illness such as anxiety and depression, those things don’t just go away because you’re on “vacation.” Especially if you’re abroad for a long period of time, those emotions will always rise when you’re having a bad day, and that’s okay. It’s better to be mindful of this before you travel, so you can better prepare for it when your emotions get the best of you.

I knew things weren’t going to be 100% perfect. I guess I just didn’t know the full extent on how hard it is having a breakdown when you’re thousands of miles away from home. Living with a mental illness is already hard enough as it is. When I am living at home, I know I have my family and my friends to turn to, but reaching out is still a difficult task. Being in a different continent, on a different time zone further complicates things and sometimes it was unbearable. I wanted to talk to my best friends about it, but couldn’t because they were either asleep, at school, or working. By the time it was a good time to reach them, I had gone through an episode all alone.

A big advice that I have is to reach out to your campus resources. If you are studying in a different country, chances are your University will have a student outreach group. They are able to provide you with counseling and advisors to help you along your journey. I was pleasantly surprised when the University of Tasmania sent me emails about a new counseling program they started this year and it served as a reminder that if I needed to talk to someone, I wasn’t alone.

If you are backpacking or traveling without studying, it is important to think about what you can do if you have an emotional breakdown while you’re away. Many people are able to go months without having a panic attack or feeling depressed. You need to be able to be honest with yourself and if you know you have a history of mental illness, think about what you will do if you have an anxiety or panic attack while you’re away. Some ideas on what you can do is talk to your loved ones and ask them if it would be okay if you could call them whenever you need to, this includes in the middle of the night. You could also research local counseling offices and schedule appointments ahead of time if counseling is something important that you need in your life.

Some people can go a long time without having a bad day. Others know how to take control of their anxiety and depression very well but it’s okay if you don’t know how. Mental illness is very scary and in some countries, it’s still a taboo thing to talk about. Be mindful of this when traveling and do research before departing to a new destination if counseling or seeking resources for mental illness is something you’d be interested in.

Having a mental illness should never impede you from traveling. Although it’s a scary thought to think about, being aware and prepared for the road ahead is what’s most important. I’m not close to my family whatsoever but I found myself really missing them in my time away. I can’t imagine what it must be like for those that are family-oriented. I have friends in Tasmania that talk to their family practically every day and they still suffer from homesickness. I must admit that I never thought I would get home sick until I realized that I needed to talk to someone but couldn’t reach out because of the distance.

Being away from home has the potential to heighten your anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. You have to find ways to keep yourself motivated and happy, because you realize quickly that no one here is going to do that for you. While you’re abroad, the biggest piece of advice is to find something that makes you happy. Whether that’s taking an interesting class, trying out a new sport, or making a ton of new friends, these things have the potential to make your experience abroad all the more better. When you’re feeling lonely or depressed, it gets better by having at least one thing to turn to for happiness.

OIE Note

Students can find more information about mental health abroad and resources offered by DU (including International SOS) in the Study Abroad Handbook under Health & Safety.

Chelsea Hernandez


Chelsea Hernandez is currently a Senior studying Journalism and Criminology. She is studying abroad in Tasmania, Australia for the Fall Quarter of 2018. Chelsea is hoping learn about a variety of cultures, not just the Tasmanian one, as many of her peers abroad are from different countries all over the world. After graduation this upcoming Spring, she hopes to gain more experience in Journalism and land an internship somewhere in Denver.

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The truth about expenses

I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be studying in a different country. The University of Denver has an amazing study abroad program that offers a wide variety of partnership programs with different universities around the world. I recognize that without this stellar program, I probably wouldn’t get this opportunity anywhere else.
Have you ever looked up plane tickets to Australia? Well it never occurred to me to check how expensive they were until I was interested in studying here. From Denver, Colorado, they are roughly $2,300 round trip to Hobart, Tasmania- at the cheapest. My University granted me a Cherrington Global Scholar benefit. With a high enough GPA and good academic standing, this scholarship covered my flight expenses and my visa costs.

Adventure Bay and Bruny Island (full day). Cost: $88USD (through the school)

You can work while you study abroad, you just have to note that in your visa application. My family wasn’t planning on me to work and so my dad had to pull a few strings. Money was already tight in my house but he knew how much I wanted this to work out. He made the effort to save up money himself so he could give it to me as a departing gift. I also saved up what I could from my minimum wage job back at home. My trip was going to happen, but I knew I had to be wise.

It’s difficult studying abroad when you’re on a budget. My harsh reality was that I met a lot of great people and unfortunately I had to pass on some friendships because I couldn’t afford it. What I mean by that is that once you start making friends when you’re abroad, everybody wants to travel. Here in Tasmania, we’re so close to the Main Land that tickets can be cheap if you book them in advance. But tickets are just one of many expenses that come from traveling. You need to pay for hotels/hostels, transportation, food, and of course the purpose to travel is to explore so you need to pay for any entrance fees that you come across. It’s hard when the majority of people have the means to pull off these trips every weekend while you’re forced to pick and choose what things you want to do and what things just simply can’t fit in your budget.

Wildlife Sanctuary. Cost: Free (through the school)

Like I said, the more you start passing off on trips, the more people become distant from you. They stop inviting you to places, and before you know it, they stop talking to you. My biggest piece of advice to those that are studying abroad: if this starts to happen, don’t be afraid to be honest. Tell people that you appreciate the invitation but that you are trying to be cautious with your money. Also tell them that you hope they keep inviting you to outings because maybe they might do something that you are willing to spend money on. One thing you should never do is give into peer pressure and start wasting your money on these constant trips because before you know it, you’ll be left without money in a foreign country.

You don’t need money to have fun. If you constantly need to spend money in order to have a good time when you’re abroad, then you’re doing it wrong. Find things to do that don’t require you to break the bank. Go out for some coffee with friends, explore the city and get lost, or take a bus ride to a new destination. One great thing about Tasmania is that there are a lot of amazing hikes to do. All you need is some people to go with and you’re all set.

Museum of Old and New Art. Cost: Free (with student ID)

This isn’t my first time living away from home but it is my first time having to feed myself. I became very dependent on having a dining hall at school that I never had to do grocery shopping for myself. I’ve bought snacks for my dorm and kept milk or juice in my mini fridge but that’s about it. I never had to buy actual food that will help me survive.When you’re abroad, you need to be wise about your grocery budget as well.

First, don’t overload on snacks. Yes, they’re quick and easy to eat but trust me, too many snacks can be costly. Not just to your bank account but to your health too. It’s better to buy $10 worth of chicken breasts than $10 worth of snacks. It’ll feed you for a few days, keep you fuller, and it’s much healthier for you. Food should always be a priority. Let’s say your monthly grocery budget is about $150. Make sure you include this FIRST in your budget plan before making room for fun activities.


Wineglass Bay. Cost: $27USD (transportation with 5 people)

Other personal costs to include in the budgeting list include transportation fare, hygiene products, and other personal products that you may need. If they are things that you absolutely can’t live without (such as toilet paper), budget that in first. Whatever left over money you have at the end of the month, that can either be an emergency fund (which I would recommend) or money you can spend on fun things!

Don’t think you need to be rich in order to study abroad. It can be discouraging when you come across people that don’t have the same financial strains as you and that’s okay. If they have the means to go out every weekend, that’s awesome but that is not you, so be smart. Look for student discounts whenever you travel ANYWHERE because they do exists. Ask your host school if they plan free or low-cost trips for international students. Above all, dive into the culture. Trying local foods, exploring the city, and making friends with the locals does not require you to have a big budget.

If you come from a low socio-economic background like me, I know studying abroad seems very unrealistic. But if you have a good support system behind you, and you’re determined to make it work, it can happen. All you need is to be smart, have a bit of self-control, and to just have a good time no matter what you do.


Friends. Cost: Priceless

Chelsea Hernandez


Chelsea Hernandez is currently a Senior studying Journalism and Criminology. She is studying abroad in Tasmania, Australia for the Fall Quarter of 2018. Chelsea is hoping learn about a variety of cultures, not just the Tasmanian one, as many of her peers abroad are from different countries all over the world. After graduation this upcoming Spring, she hopes to gain more experience in Journalism and land an internship somewhere in Denver.

Link to Posts

Link to Travel Blog