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Managing your mental health at university

Faris hattab – business and management student – university for the creative arts (uca)

Anxiety, loneliness, excitement, fear, and happiness are all things you might be feeling when you go to university for the first time. As an international student these feelings were heavy and hard-hitting. Such feelings felt by a single person are always magnified in a crowd, and I was certain that most of the new faces around me did feel some of these emotions as well. Being thousands of miles away from home for the first time seemed like it would be an unforgettable adventure, and as much preparation as I had done, I couldn’t be quite prepared for what I was yet to experience, and how I would be able to adjust.

The university experiences come at you very quickly, and there is so much to do and so much to experience, with many new people of all different backgrounds coming together. It might appear as if it is an easy formula that guarantees fun, motivation, and general happiness. However, for many, the university experience can be quite difficult to get used to and adjust to, and the feeling of being away from home is just too much to take in. In such cases, homesickness arises, coupled with feelings of sadness, demotivation, and depression for some. People feel like there is no one to talk to, and no one will understand their individual struggle and how it is different from other struggling students’.

For me personally, as an international student, being away from home for the first time was great, and I could not be more ecstatic. But there were many unresolved problems back home, that left me trapped in a box of overthinking and doubt, that alongside the pressure I put onto myself to excel in my studies right away and also be very sociable was too much for my mental capacity to withstand. The expectations and the pressure I put on myself was far too high, in turn, I broke down right away, my attendance and course work slightly suffered, and my social life was non-existent.

I did not think I could turn my life around, as all the problems affecting me had become very serious and the repercussions were noticeable. That is until I stumbled across a leaflet in the university’s library about the counselling service provided. I was very sceptical at first but thought it would not hurt to submit an application, and after going through the routine procedure, I was accepted into the service. If I could pinpoint a time in my life where things changed, it would be the moment I went to my first session. I was very nervous but was greeted with the nicest counsellor, she made me feel very comfortable and my anxiety was gone, as soon as we sat down and started talking. The sessions made me feel come to terms with many of my decisions, it also looked at things I did not think factored into my problems, and as the weeks passed by, we were handling each problem, one after the other.

Counselling became the time of the week I would look forward to the most, as it gave me an opportunity to be myself, feel very comfortable and get advice from an expert who showed so much empathy. I came out of the sessions as a revamped person, much more confident, comfortable, and happier. It allowed me to live the university experience I actually wanted before my anxiety and mental health hindered these plans. Over the next two years in university, I never needed to desperately go back, but I have used the drop-in counselling option, which is very convenient, and it helped me deal with minor problems quickly.

Taking everything into account, I wish I had used the counselling service much earlier than I have because it truly was very beneficial. However, I am glad that I went for it, despite my scepticism, as it was a service that truly shifted my perspective, and helped me grow so much as a person, and a creative. I will fully be grateful for the lovely staff members in the counselling department, as they have been nothing but genuine and empathic. To any future student, I want you to know that you are not alone, and there’s always a way out and a chance to change everything wrong going on with your life. I urge all future students who are struggling, to try the service out, it is free and on-site, and will surely help out many of you.

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