Studying abroad is tough. Not only do we have to deal with challenging curricula, cultural differences, and language barriers, we may also frequently suffer from homesickness and self-doubt. Sometimes the pain can be too overwhelming that you feel you cannot take it any longer. That’s totally normal! You are not and will never be the only one who feels this way. What I want to let you know is that it’s always okay to be not okay. But it’s not okay to struggle along. Always be mindful and take good care of your mental status, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Nothing is more important than enjoying your life here at the University of Michigan.
I remember myself going through a breakdown during my first semester. Trying to go over a mass of reading materials made me lack sleep for days. However, during the class, I still found it hard to keep pace with the professor. After class, I couldn’t help but feel the world was so doom and gloom. I kept questioning that since I had all the passion towards what I was learning and tried to devote the best of myself, why couldn't I make it? Everything just seemed so meaningless to me at the moment. I called my mom and fell apart. I started to doubt whether studying abroad was a good choice and told her how I felt I could not take this any longer. Fortunately, my mom didn’t push me. She said that I had done really well so far and could always choose to quit if that’s what I really wanted; that her only wish was for me to be happy, and she will always be there for me. I got reassured by my mom's words and decided to put myself together. I made up my mind to stick with my efforts and let time tell how things would turn out to be. And it was truly a turning point for me – you’ll be amazed by how powerful the support from your beloved ones could be. It holds you together and helps you move forward.
It really was not a pleasant memory. However, through this experience, I found a better way to deal with similar situations and learned how to take good care of my mental health. First and foremost, confront your feelings. Like I mentioned at the beginning, it’s always okay to be not okay. It’s safe to say I sometimes feel anxious, stressed, depressed, or empty. It’s always important to learn to be honest about what you do, and how you feel. Second, focus on what you’ve achieved rather than what you are “lacking.” Sometimes we might just need to relax. Take some rest, eat some chocolates, or go for a run. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can and everything is going to turn out just fine. Last but not least, remember that there is always someone ready and willing to listen and help you find the assistance you need. When you feel down, don’t hesitate to reach out to your friends, family, or whatever can make you feel better. Let them tell you how great you are. The University of Michigan also offers Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) in every department and even online counseling services that can help you out. Finally, never, ever give up on yourself. No matter how bad things seem to be, there’s always something good out there, just over the horizon.
Written by Jiawen Qiao
Summer Orientation Peer Advisor