By WSA Intern Abby Hedrick
While the positives of study abroad are endless, the first few days can be rough for a number of reasons. Adjusting to a new city, culture, and oftentimes language can be daunting, and jet lag only adds to that! After spending last semester abroad, I gathered a list of ideas for ways to get rid or cope with jet lag, and tried employing them at the beginning of this semester abroad. Three days in and that dreaded layer of fatigue is almost gone for me! Here are some of my top tips for minimizing the effects of jet lag:
1) Go easy on yourself. Yes, the semester is short, but taking two-three days to take it slow will end up making you get more out of your experience in the long run. If you don’t feel like going out for a drink with your house mates the first night you’ve arrived, fresh off a red-eye flight- that is totally okay! Take the first few days to take in your first impressions of the city, and don’t be surprised if they start to change.
2) Stay up until at least nine the first night. Trust me, this will only be beneficial in the long run. You will feel like crashing right after arriving at your destination, but force yourself to stay awake! Staying up until an “acceptable” time to go to sleep, in your host country’s time zone, will help your body adjust to the time zone more quickly (see evidence here). If you are absolutely exhausted you can allow for a short nap but don't sleep for longer than 1 hour.
3) Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This is something I have NOT done this semester and my body is definitely feeling it! Even though orientation could start at eight AM one day, noon the next, try to wake up at relatively the same time. This will help retrain your internal sleep clock.
4)Be productive. Obviously this may seem contradictory to point number one, but by productive I mean little things like preparing a map between your class buildings, journaling how you’re feeling and how you’re enjoying your first few days, and exploring the city (albeit slower than you might later in the semester once you’re adjusted).
5) Get outdoors. Getting in a walk and access to sunshine will really help give you energy and convince your body that you really are supposed to be awake right now plus its a great way to explore your new home for the next 4 months! (check out one of the sunniest places in Europe: Barcelona)
Jet lag is tough, and unpredictable, but it’s all worth it on the way to an unforgettable semester!
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