International Student Self-Care Guide

Juan Páez

Staying sane during a pandemic is not an easy task.

On top of that, international students like me are left in an awkward situation, taking all our classes online while managing being away from home when our families might need us. 

Some have already left, as international students were granted permission to finish the Spring quarter away from the U.S.. Others, like me, are stranded for the foreseeable future.

So what can international students do to stop themselves from growing sick with worry or anxiety?

Keep in Touch

Humans are social creatures, and at least trying to keep in contact with other people is important.

If possible, try to call home as much as you can. It might be tempting to shut yourself off from the world and wallow in the uncertainty of the unprecedented times we’re living in, but if you have someone back home to call, call them. Families (and moms especially) worry. That’s what they do.

Apps such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime and Houseparty have made it easier than ever to keep in touch with friends without breaking social distancing rules. 

Online gaming is also a good way to interact with other people. Games like “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” for the Nintendo Switch are popular choices among shut-ins during this pandemic. 

But you don’t have to have a console to play online games; the Google Play Market and Apple App Store are chock full of games with online capabilities (I’ve become rather obsessed with a game called “Parchisi Star,” an online board game you can play with your Facebook friends).

Stay Active

Exercise helps relieve stress and keeps you healthy. Try not to hit the running trails too much, as it’s difficult to maintain social distancing when everyone and their mothers appear to have the same idea of walking the dogs or riding their bikes along the path.

Although the recent sunny weather is tempting, don’t put yourself and others at risk if you can avoid it. 

There are a number of simple workouts you can do at home with minimal equipment; setting a mat on the floor will get you far. Stairs are also good, albeit repetitive.

Social media is flooded with people promoting workout routines, so finding one that suits your needs shouldn’t be that hard. However, don’t buy into all the productivity porn found online these days. These are hard times. It’s okay to feel down sometimes. Should you decide to exercise, it should be because it’s healthy and good for you, not out of guilt.

Learn to Manage Your Time

Online instruction has started, and it’s now more important than ever to maintain at least some semblance of a routine for yourself.

Online classes might seem more relaxed, but if you let your guard down you will find yourself in a pickle sooner rather than later. Check your Canvas notifications and SCC emails constantly. I know it’s a drag, but your grades will thank you. 

Your sleep schedule is also important. Try to get some sunlight during the day; your circadian rhythm (biological clock) will appreciate it. 

Going to sleep at 6 a.m. and waking up at 5 p.m. might have been just fine during spring break, but it’s probably not sustainable with the usual 11:59 p.m. assignment deadlines, unless you’re motivated enough to work through the night.


Don’t be ashamed to overindulge in your hobbies. Catch up on your favorite shows, play your favorite instrument (but be mindful of your roommates or family), read that pile of books you’ve owned for ages and maybe even pick up a new hobby. 

Don’t despair in the face of uncertainty. We live in a different world now, and it might take some getting used to. But I find that putting yourself at the service of others is the best you can do during these trying times. Call that friend who might be struggling. Donate any extra food you might have. Go on grocery runs for your elderly neighbors.

We’ve lived for so long in a society that glorifies the self and diminishes the struggles of others as personal failures rather than signs of a systemic problem. It’s time to rise above that.

It’s hard to be away from our families during this pandemic. We’re all worried sick. We cannot help them for now, but we can help the people around us, however small that help is.

I do not know what comes next. No one does. But in the meantime, we can try to help each other as much as we can; there really is no other choice. You can start by making sure to keep your own head in the game.