The OVERLOOKED Minority: International Students

Hello Bronchos, I am Prash, the Future Broncho Ambassador for Nepal. I started my journey at UCO during the rise of COVID-19, and, unfortunately, things did not turn out to be as expected. People worldwide faced the consequences; financial difficulties, degrading health conditions, or emotional misery. Students were required to switch to virtual and online classes. They were getting less from their years of schooling as resources dissipated and interaction was limited. Some people started to cherish the small community and family around them. However, reaching out to other people you know became harder. Given the circumstances of COVID-19, most international students were flying back home. It was also a phase of struggle as moving through various airports became complicated due to continuous lockdowns. I managed to stay here as the lockdowns in Nepal were not friendly for traveling back home.

As we spent several months alone and were able to reflect, there were numerous opportunities for self-realization. But, in the end, humans are social creatures. Social interaction and bonding are integral aspects of our lives. Many international students were stranded in places where they did not know anyone or had little access to communication. There was worry and doubt in people’s thoughts; sadly, most did not have the proper guidance to cope with it. This instilled fear among them, and we could observe young people’s degrading mental health status. As we are back to connecting on campus, I am in awe of the numerous stories my international friends had about their grueling journeys during those times. They were described as isolated, depressing, stressful, and solitary.

Nothing has been better than returning to campus and seeing human faces again last year. I believe COVID-19 has taught us many valuable life lessons, one of which is the importance of dedicating time to yourself. It is a valued time for self-reflection and learning. Many of us are still recovering from the post-trauma stress of the pandemic. People who lived in vulnerable and abusive environments during the pandemic have symptoms of anxiety, high-stress levels, and nervousness. It is essential to understand that the current time is molding us into who we will be in the future and being able to make changes for a better future.

International students, away from home, with little guidance and consultation, are believed to experience more traumatic events in general due to being in a new environment. Coming from a different cultural experience, I still struggle to blend perfectly into American society, which is a natural hindrance in cross-cultural experiences. But it is always a good idea to reach out to people around you during such phases. There is a stigma around counseling services; you should be depressed or suicidal to visit a counselor. I can’t entirely agree with this notion, as mental health is vital to our well-being. Going to counseling services has helped me clarify where I stand and what I need to add to my perspective. It is always good to talk to someone on a deeper and more honest level to self-reflect. Other measures I suggest include practicing meditation, picking a physical sport, working out, exploring your hobbies and interests, and so on. I cannot emphasize this enough: your well-being consists of being physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy.