Keep Calm and Study Abroad: The Effect of Learning Abroad on Student Mental Health


  • Amber Bathke
  • Yang-Hyang (Ryoka) Kim



Learning abroad, Student mental health, Study abroad, Education abroad


This research set out to discover whether statistics would support the belief in the international education field that the stress of going abroad (adjusting to a new culture, missing home, being away from support network, etc.) can trigger mental health conditions in students participating in learning abroad programs. The study sought to glean on overall picture of student mental health abroad, as well as determine the percentage of students studying abroad who reported experiencing a diagnosed mental health condition while abroad, the nature of these diagnosed mental health conditions, the frequency of relapse/recurrence of existing conditions while abroad, the frequency and type of treatment received, and local attitude toward mental health conditions. The research was conducted by means of an online survey administered by the University of Minnesota’s Office of Measurement Services, which was sent by email to people who had participated in study abroad through the University of Minnesota’s Learning Abroad Center between Summer 2009 and Spring 2012, a total of 7,191 students. As the Learning Abroad Center, while serving University of Minnesota students first and foremost, also acts as a program provider recruiting students nationally, the participants’ home institutions were likely dozens of universities nationwide (though home institution information was not collected). We received 613 responses for a response rate of 8.52%. The data from the survey suggest, surprisingly, that in general, student mental health actually improves while abroad, an in fact, that skills learned during an international experience may contribute to improved mental health upon return.


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Author Biographies

Amber Bathke

Amber Bathke is an Associate Program Director in the University of Minnesota's Learning Abroad Center. As an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, she spent a semester in Montpellier, France, and now advises on that program, among others. She holds a BA in French studies with a minor in Russian, and a Master of Liberal Studies with a focus on Language and Identity. Her professional interests include diversity abroad, student mental health, language learning, and identity development.

Yang-Hyang (Ryoka) Kim

Yang-Hyang (Ryoka) Kim is a doctoral intern at the University of New Hampshire Counseling Center. She is of Korean-Japanese heritage and first came to the U.S. as an exchange student at the University of Oregon. She received her M.S. in Mental Health Counseling from Western Washington University and then recently, her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota. Her professional interests include health psychology, grief, loss, and life transition.


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How to Cite

Bathke , A., & Kim , Y.-H. (Ryoka). (2016). Keep Calm and Study Abroad: The Effect of Learning Abroad on Student Mental Health. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 27(1), 1–16.



Research Articles