Considering Study Abroad
Studying abroad is an amazing life experience, but, just like any new situation, it can test your sobriety. Consider the following questions when selecting your program:
- How does the host country view addiction? Is it seen as a taboo topic most host families or professors of your classes will not be comfortable discussing or is addiction viewed as a public health concern with more open and available resources?
- Will you be able to maintain your current recovery routine while abroad?
- Is counseling going to be an option while abroad? Is it covered by insurance?
- Does the host country have regular 12-step meetings nearby? How far would you have to travel to attend a meeting?
- How far along are you in your recovery? Do you feel ready for a challenge? Recovery advocates often suggest having at least one year of sobriety before making big life changes or commitments.
- Who is an available support person for you while abroad? Do you know anyone going through the same program?
Preparing to Study Abroad
Before you head off to another country, ensure you are putting yourself in a situation you can manage.
- Sobriety must always come first. Set yourself up to be successful, not only in your classes but also in your recovery. Get organized now so you can enjoy the experience once traveling.
- Talk to others. Do not be afraid to talk to the Center for International Programs (CIP) staff about your recovery. Ask for feedback on the host country regarding the questions above. Ask to speak to students who have traveled through the program previously. Bring it up in your circle of sober support and ask for their advice.
- Consider counseling. Ask your program or host university abroad to help you connect with an English-speaking counselor prior to your departure. You should also speak to your health insurance company about coverage for this service while abroad. You will likely need to pay for services upfront and submit your receipt for reimbursement if your insurance company does cover these services.
- Utilize the Alcohol & Drug Education program as a resource. Set up a meeting with a staff member to talk through resources and formulate a plan for your time abroad.
Resources While Abroad
If you have made the choice to study abroad and you have prepared yourself well, then you will need to advocate for yourself and what you know it takes to preserve your sobriety.
- Maintain Your Recovery Routine. If you typically run or do kickboxing or attend 12-step meetings, you should consider how best to continue with those routines. The coping strategies you’ve been working on will likely be put to the test when traveling, especially out of the country. Traveling can lead to weaker immune systems, fatigue and jet lag. Studying abroad can also come with high levels of stress, culture shock and homesickness. Consistency is important so as quickly as you can, start a healthy routine that supports sobriety.
- International 12-step Meetings
- www.aa.org: Over 80 countries, from Australia to Zimbabwe, have 12-step meetings listed on this site. If your host country does not appear on the list, you can also submit an inquiry to the International Representative Email because there are approximately 175 countries with registered AA meetings. But most meetings will be spoken in their native language. If you are not fluent in the language of your host country, this might not be helpful.
- European 12-step Meetings
- Alcoholics Anonymous Continental European Region is a website that gathers all English-language meetings in every country around continental Europe. There are over 600 English-Speaking meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous in foreign-language countries throughout Europe!
- Alcoholics Anonymous of Great Britain has a National Helpline: 0800 9177 650 and an email available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- SMART Recovery is a growing addiction recovery support group that is growing across the globe. They host face-to-face meetings across the globe but focus their recovery support online. They have an online community with a message board, a 24/7 chat room and daily online meetings!
- Yoga, Mindfulness and Meditation
- Most countries across the world have options for yoga practice or meditation practice in groups but luckily you can also do these on your own.
- Yoga Trade links instructors, students, and wellness professionals with work-trade and job opportunities in countries as well as events for yoga around the globe.
- Blog Post: Yoga Truths I Learned Traveling Abroad.
- Ask for Help
- Before a problem arises, talk to friends about your journey. Ask them to help you avoid triggers and explain how important your sobriety is to you. Ask them to call you out if they notice changes in your behavior or sobriety. Accountability is key!
- Do not be afraid to ask for help as soon as you feel you are struggling. Connect with any adult in your program; professor, administrator, etc.
- Reach out to SJU staff if needed. For study abroad emergencies during CIP office hours (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.) please call the CIP office at (610) 660-1835 or contact a CIP staff member. After business hours, on holidays and weekends call: SJU Public Safety: 610-660-1111
We hope you enjoy your time while abroad and experience new and wonderful things that help build your character and values in a positive way.