Student Ambassador Nav Grewal knows that living abroad comes with its challenges, but she’s not backing down. Through it all, she’s discovered ways to navigate tough times and emerge stronger on the other side

You know that thing they always say? “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel” – yeah, well sometimes that tunnel feels too long to see the smallest smudge or pinpoint of light at the end of it. That’s exactly how I felt when I decided to withdraw halfway through my Bachelor’s Degree and instead, pursue a 5-year program in Ireland. Don’t get me wrong – being a Medical Student is an absolute dream of mine, but it definitely came with its challenges that I still face to this day. Constantly feeling homesick, experiencing the culture shock, feeling lonely although still being surrounded by friends, and adjusting to the workload and stressors of Medical School made me question if I could even do this; everyday, that light seemed to dim a little lower. Having been in Ireland and studying abroad for almost 2 years now, I’ve accustomed some ways to help me get through these times and pull myself out the other side. I’ve narrowed it down to 4 key formulaic things I incorporated into my life which I’m here to share with you. Whether you’re already studying abroad, living away from home, or even thinking about it, this article is for you.  

Finding Your Motivation 
Let me start by asking you this: who or what motivates you? why does it motivate you? what makes you get up in the morning?
Finding this motivational figure, or thing, is what I like to think of as “the first step”. In times where giving up feels like the only option, leaning back on this motivation will help you get hold of your footing. Whether it be a family member, friend, item, celebrity, or just your self-will, use it as a helping hand. 
Personally for me, this person is Kobe Bryant. Although I’m not his biggest basketball fan, I truly love and resonate with his take on motivation, mentality, and commitment. I incidentally stumbled upon one of this interviews after a late night of studying and from there, I’ve used his words and lessons as motivation to help me get to where I want to be. I strongly urge you to check out some of his motivational videos on YouTube, there are tons! – and yes, I have watched them all.  

Taking the Time & Intentionality
Taking the time means to spend time everyday talking to your loved ones and to take time for yourself. Often, we get lost in the craziness of everyday life, but it’s important to ground yourself and take this time to keep yourself connected to the people back home, and it makes those reunitions that much sweeter. 
As for yourself, make sure to give yourself breaks and do self-care activities – go on a walk with music blasting in your ears, watch Netflix, exercise, or have a coffee at a café alone to romanticize life.  

Surroundings Have you ever heard of the phrase “clean your space, clean your mind”? Although it can be taken literally, I think our surroundings really depict the state of our minds. Although it might be “cheesy”, I feel that putting up motivational things, pictures, or writing good messages around your bedroom can really make a big difference. I especially did this during exam season, and seeing these things around the most intimate area of my house made my thoughts become more positive by itself, and it was truly surprising.  

“It’s Okay Not To Be Okay” 
It’s true. Feeling “good” all of the time is not how life works – especially when you’re away from the people who make you feel whole. However, it really is okay to not be okay – the question is what do you do when you’re not? I struggled with this a ton in my first year here, and from personal experience, I urge you to reach out to anyone you trust and talk to your school’s mental health/wellbeing department. Talking to a therapist who is a professional but complete stranger really is helpful to gain a perspective from an unbiased third party. And not to mention, they truly do care – they spent their whole life studying to help people like you and I.  

A good friend once told me “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”, and every day I remind myself of that. Living and studying abroad is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and at the end of the day, even though that tunnel may seem impossibly long, there still is light at the end of it.  

Nav is studying Medicine at RCSI