Our Mental Well Being: International Students

by Jiyun Bang, Exchange Student, South Korea

 The pandemic that has continued over the past few years has affected our lives a lot. Many parts of everyday life have changed, and there was no exception to anyone. In particular, as time staying at home increased and daily restrictions were imposed, it also affected the mental health of many people. This was also true for university students, including international students, especially Generation Z, and had some negative consequences. 

 In general, international students face more difficulties. The first is the language barrier. They have to use a language that is not their first language, which requires a lot of effort and can be stressful in some cases. You may be frustrated because you can’t clearly convey what you’re trying to say, or you may be upset because you can’t understand what others are saying. 

 The second is the stress you get when you adapt to a new environment. People are always uncomfortable with things they are not used to. Therefore, other cultures and new environments also act as a difficulty for international students. 

 And there is also perceived discrimination and social loneliness. You may feel discriminated against by various factors such as race, gender, and religion, or you may feel socially isolated because you are left alone in a new place, away from your close relationships.

 Meanwhile, COVID-19 has negatively affected not only international students but also domestic students. The survey of 2,086 students conducted by Active Minds in April 2020, it shows how much COVID-19 has affected their mental health. Overall, one in five students said their mental health deteriorated due to COVID-19. 

 More specifically, it shows the most common ways that COVID-19 has affected students’ lives. To sum up, more than half of the students experienced deterioration of mental health in each category. 

I interviewed an exchange student at Saint Peter’s University briefly and heard about what she felt, the difficulties, and how she could overcome them. 

 She replied, “I think a walk while listening to my favorite music helped me overcome depression and feeling stress.” As such, students’ own ways to overcome stress and restore their mental health are important.

Here are some tips for various students, including international students. First, connect with other students. You can join social clubs or groups to meet new people and friends. Second, maintain your daily routine. If you do daily activities regularly at the same time every day, it will help not only your mental health but also your physical health. Third, get outdoors. Like what Daeun did, you can just go out and take a walk around your house. Fourth, take a break while listening to music. Several studies have shown that music helps relieve stress and makes people relaxed. Step away from your work and study, and take a break. Lastly, explore counseling services. When you think you can’t get through it alone, don’t be afraid to get help from others. 

Especially for students who live in Jersey City, I’ll recommend some spots to visit while you’re taking a walk. First, you can start by walking to Lincoln Park. Watching various people there, you can also feel like you’re relaxed, too. Or you can walk to Hoboken to see the beautiful scenery of New York. When you think you can’t get through it alone, don’t be afraid to get help from others.

 In the interview with Daeun, she said, “Sometimes, I think it’s most helpful to look around and enjoy the small things rather than to do something big. Especially considering that many parts of daily life have been limited due to the pandemic/corona, I think we should feel the importance of daily life.” Like she said, if you find one small thing that makes you happy in your daily life, you will be able to overcome various difficulties.