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  • Writer's pictureToula

International Students' Mental Health

Mental health is very important for everyone and it is a topic that many people have discuss these days. So, I also want to discuss the mental health of international students because I think most of them experience some mental health issues due to living alone in a new country that is far from friends and family as I'm also an International student who currently studying in the UK.

Many students experience difficulties in university but international students find it more difficult and challenging to study overseas. Being an international student may be a wonderful and fulfilling experience. You'll make new friends, encounter a unique way of living, and pick up new knowledge. However, it's normal to feel a little stressed or homesick sometimes when studying and living alone in a new country. Being an international student is not always easy because we can experience challenges in several areas, such as:

  • Language barriers: international students are also concerned about their inability to communicate in English with others whether making friends, participating in group projects, or seeking professional medical assistance (due to fears about miscommunication).

  • Academics: International students might not be familiar with conducting research and producing academic writing, or with the format of assignments at a UK university.

  • Financial stressors: Many international students experience extra pressure to perform academically due to the high costs of tuition, accommodation, and food. They could feel pressured by their families to choose majors that are only practical or lucrative, and they might not be encouraged to consider all of the available professional options.

  • Social and Cultural Differences: being away from your family, friends, and established support networks while adjusting to life in a new place and potentially experiencing culture shock can make international students feel isolated.

  • Mental health concerns: Homesickness is one of the biggest issues facing overseas students. Academic, social, cultural, and financial constraints are added to this, which may cause too much stress, anxiety, and despair.

A recent UK study has found that 41% of students think they have poor mental health, and 69% of them say this has gone on for more than two years. The fact that 39% had felt suicidal is much more concerning. Only 50% of students, according to the same study, would be aware of where to find assistance or guidance on campus. This demonstrates that despite the diligent work of the university, students still require additional support and direction to receive the aid and support they require.

My experience

Some international students have given up because they cannot carry all those challenges and they leave the UK back to their home country. When I first came to the UK, it was quite difficult for me to communicate with other people because English is not my native language. During that first year in the UK, I avoided meeting with new people because my communication skills in English is not strong and I was concerned about my pronunciation will be incorrect and miscommunication.

Furthermore, experiencing new culture caused culture shock for me and it was quite stressful and complex as well. Thus, sometimes I would face loneliness because of living alone and feeling stressed with my assignments due to not understanding some words in English and it takes more time for me to fully understand the tasks compared to British students.

However, I can overcome those hard times because of my family and friends who always support me during that time. But sometimes due to the time zone difference, it's hard to contact them which makes calling home at convenient times more challenging. Even with our time differences, I would like to thank my best friend who will talk with me every day until dawn, and I don't feel alone much. With my family and friends support, I have more courage to do things I could not do in the past.

Furthermore, I have talked to some of my friends who are also international students, and they tend to be less likely to seek mental health treatment and some people are also less aware of the support that is available at most universities. However, some of my friends could not handle all of those challenges and might not receive enough support, so they decided to drop university and go back to their home country.

Ask for help

Mental health is an important issue for all students, not just those studying overseas and if you experience any kind of anxiety, depression or any other mental health issues, it's important to reach out for professional help. Friends and family can be incredibly supportive if you struggle, but sometimes expert assistance will make a bigger difference. Asking for help or visiting a doctor, a trained counsellor or a psychotherapist is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength that you refuse to give up.

"Asking for help is never a sign of failure but the sign of strength because your life is worth saving"

Quote by Gisele Bündchen (Adapted from the book "You're Not Alone" by Debbi Marco)

"What is the bravest thing you've ever said?" asked the boy. "Help," said the horse. "Asking for help isn't giving up," said the horse. "It's refusing to give up."

Recently I read a book called "The Boy, The Mole, the Fox and the Horse" by Charlie Mackesy and I found this quote perfectly captures the courage needed by all of us when we decide to ask for help. Some students avoid asking for help because they might believe that they will be perceived as weak, incompetent or vulnerable, or some students might not want to be a "burden". it is important to take the first step to sharing your feelings and ask for help because this will give huge relief.


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