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How To: Make Friends in Korea

Have you seen my last article? You can check it out here. As always, a large portion of your questions can be answered by going to my list of resources page here, or the contact page here. There are article-specific resources at the bottom of the page.

I love and advocate for solo travel, especially by millennials when at all possible, though one does have to recognize the unique barriers to entry that millennials, however, the hardest part of traveling alone is building a support system and a life that has meaningful relationships in it. Once the excitement wears off, being in Korea can be really tough if you don't make friends. Luckily for you, through trial error, I've learned some (almost) foolproof ways to make new friends while you are in Korea. While a few of these tips are generalizable, some of them are Korea-specific. Just remember if you're feeling really lonely, reach out to someone! You'll be surprised how compassionate people are, especially in your time …

Should You Even Go?: Depression x Travel Checklist


If you haven't seen my last post, you can see it here and if you haven't seen the last depression x travel post you can check it out here. You can also see the Ultimate List of Resources here.

   Some would argue that millennials have a higher incidence of mental illness in general, though studies that support such findings do not control for the shift in views of mental illness that have prevented our parents from seeking out a formal diagnosis. For instance, in my very own family, outside the self-diagnosed alcoholism, I have witnessed what was considered to be "just how they are" which was really classically presented symptoms of major depression, narcissistic personality disorder, or antisocial personality disorder. They, however, attributed what was obvious to me even as a child as mental illness as a just personality. While millennials have not necessarily changed the idea that mental illness= personality traits, we have embraced the idea that more people than we know are battling mental illness. My point is, whether or not millennial "snowflakes" actually have a higher incidence of mental illness or the generations before us just felt more shame around seeking a diagnosis and subsequent treatment, mental illness keeps lots of millennials from becoming solo travelers. So, mentally ill millennial, here are some ways that you know you can solo travel with your illness in your checked bag. Think of it as the depression x travel checklist.


1. You Have Some Coping Skills
    If you are aware of the fact that you have a mental illness, more likely than not you have already worked with a psychological professional to find a collection of coping skills or have formed some on your own. This is like, a basic tenant of traveling while depressed, especially if you're going abroad for more than a few weeks. Eventually, the newness of being in your new host country will wear off and you'll likely fall back into the habits you held back home, and when happens, you'll be mentally ill... in a different country. Hopefully, you have some skills in place so that you can go and enjoy your new country! Some of my coping skills aren't the healthiest in the world, but some of the good ones include:

- telling my new friends/professors that I have a mental illness or possible things that can cause some of the not so pleasant symptoms
-taking walks by myself in busy areas if I want to get lost in a sea of people or if I want to commune with nature going into the woods or somewhere quiet and just do some super low-impact activity
-turning off my phone/isolation to heal and not destruct
-writing to explore the patterns of the illness itself
-karaoke! karaoke! karaoke!
-eating for comfort but not to the point of binging (that's a finnnneeee line)
-turning my energy and thoughts outward to improve the quality of life for others and thereby healing myself in turn (Pisces moon antics)
-reading some super sad poetry to cry it out
-trying not force myself to feel anything I don't feel authentically

   Your coping skills may not look anything like mine, but they should be tailored to you. If you are one of those do yoga and meditate to cure your depression people, go for it! If you need to order lots and lots of Domino's pizza then do that! Try to keep your coping as temporary as possible, meaning no hangovers, for the best results. Build a coping plan that doesn't require complete dependence on anyone else and that will make your future-self proud. Rinse and repeat.





2. You Have a Month's/ Semester's/Year's Supply of your Meds (or can get some)
   So, if you are on antidepressants or any other medication for mental illness it is possible that you will not be authorized to get several months of medication for your trip. To be blunt, if you try to get several bottles of antidepressants especially, it's likely that the psychiatrist that has ordered the medication and even the pharmacist that you get the meds from will absolutely think you're going use that medication to overdose and kill yourself. You could present your formal acceptance to your school or an itinerary, and they may still think that you... might kill yourself. If your therapist or psychological professional thinks you're "fairly stable", however, you might be able to get a prescription for a supply, but if your medical professional is hesitant to write you a prescription for the length of your stay (plus a few extra pills in case you lose some), that's a pretty good sign that you shouldn't be going. Note that your insurance may also not cover that many pills so you may find yourself having to pay out of pocket and then request reimbursements month to month.
    Also, you must be aware that you shouldn't change your medication or begin new medication within three months before you leave, as you may have no idea what the new doses or changes in the current dosage will do to you. You should definitely be around your psychiatrist when starting or changing your medication. I am not currently on medication or planning on starting any medication, so you should have an uninhibited and thorough conversation with your host institution, your home institution, and a medical team if you work with one.

3. You Know of Your Mental Health Resources Abroad
  You can check out my post about therapy resources in Busan, South Korea here. As I've said in that post, whether or not you have a diagnosis of mental illness of any sort or not, I believe you should definitely know what exactly your options are for just someone to talk to about your transition to your host country. Your family and friends won't always be available to text, talk, of FaceTime, and so it is crucial that you know of your other options for going about your time in your host country. This is not to say that you shouldn't do some of the adjustings on your own, but if it's feeling a little harder than it needs to be, you should always know who you could talk to if you need someone.
  If you're going to a major city, it is likely that you'll have at least a few English-speaking psychologists or counselors. Your first step is to ask your host institution! They have likely worked with students before, and so they may be your best bet for finding resources to help you in your transition. More so, these resources are super likely to be free of charge to you because you are enrolled. If you have to go outside of your host institution, then make sure you are aware of all billing options. You'll be surprised at how much the right travel insurance could cover for you.

4. You have FaceTime Schedule with Those Folks You Love 
   As I am writing this, my best friend is in Lebanon living her best life and learning Arabic (love ya). Other than literally breaking into her apartment and sleeping on her couch because I missed her so much, I deeply regret not having a FaceTime schedule with her. Trying to just wing it when we've been in constant contact every single day since we became friends, I am going through some major withdrawal. Considering the 13 hour time difference between the state where we live and Busan, I have already begun to express to my loved ones how we need to have a semi-flexible FaceTime schedule. For example, every Tuesday at noon my time in Busan, 11pm the night before where we live, I may FaceTime my best friend. On Friday at 10:30pm my time I may FaceTime my mom, and I will have other schedules in place for other people in my life. This will not only give me things to look forward to but also allow me to maintain connections with those most important in my life. The plan is to make diary-style notes in my phone after everyday or couple of days about the non-bloggable things that happen in my life not only so I can actually remember this trip for the rest of my life, but also so I can catch them up on what's going on. Of course, things get busy, but prioritizing time together is so so important. If everything falls apart and I'm having an awful time, at least I'll know that on whatever day at whatever time I will be able to reconnect with those who love and understand me most.

5. You're Not Ashamed of Coming Home
   Something may happen and you may want to come home. Part of the reason why I didn't even want to tell people I was leaving for ten months is because I might come home so early! Then the question of "Why'd you come back?" and the judgement of realizing I couldn't do it by myself will be so embarrassing. If I don't make friends, if I can't deal with the possible harassment, the language barrier is too much or start to feel awful, I'm coming home early! I had a lot of shame about the possibility of coming home, but I really think it is far more foolish to be miserable in unfamiliar settings than to be miserable in a place you know. Letting your pride get in the way of your mental health is one of the biggest indicators that you should definitely not be going abroad for a long length of time. It's okay to not be able to spend a year, six months, or even six weeks away from everything you once knew! Be determined, try to adjust, spend time alone and commune with others but be ready to come home if you need to come home. Be shameless.

It is absolutely possible to travel for long stints while managing a mental illness. The key is to be vocal about your needs to yourself, your support system, and any medical professionals you work with. You have to be courageous, and be true to yourself. Enjoy yourself!

Good Luck
Myaia
Thumbnail Photo by Alan Tang on Unsplash

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