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Focus International Voices

How to Beat Mental Breakdown

Jae In Kim January 2, 2020

Being a college student is more than studying. We have to deal with assignments, grades, friendship, and searching for self-identity. Our time in college comes with a lot of pressure because it is when we think specifically about our future life and career. Given that a semester is considered a four-month-long marathon, it is crucial to find your self-care method to beat mental breakdowns. Also, the pressure doubles when you are an international student because you have to focus on studies and fit into the culture of a whole new country at the same time. I have gone through a lot of mental breakdowns since I came here, and now that I have gotten much more used to school life, I’m getting some tips on how to balance my work and personal life.

My first tip is to admit that there is a lot of pressure. Surprisingly, many students brainwash themselves into thinking their current situation is not so bad. But all this self-assurance creates another burden: the thought that one should not complain because everything is alright. Especially for international students, the anxiety that they have left their country and the pressure to perform accordingly often makes them think only in their minds. However, it is essential to admit that it is hard to overcome difficulties. We should admit our pressure out loud.

In the last semester, I had a hard time managing assignments, language skills, and accepting American culture. This is because I tried to solve everything perfectly at once. I worked hard to finish assignments at the same time as the American students, even though it is natural that reading a long text is slower for me than others. On top of that, I thought I had failed as an international student if I didn’t fit into the “expectation standard” that I had set for myself. Over time though, I’ve learned that our bodies and minds are only one part and if we try to do all the work at once, we will be burned out. Once I started to acknowledge that I could not do everything, it became much easier. I’m not saying I gave up managing my schedule, but I started to prioritize the various tasks that I had to finish.

For example, my priority for the last semester was to understand 100% of my classes and assignments. One might think it is more important to make American friends in class. Another might say that finding an internship in the U.S. should be a priority. As such, we all have different “priorities,” we cannot place everything as the priority. What is interesting is that a lot of the other “priorities” I couldn’t manage at the same time have been solved when I accepted my imperfection and decided on specific areas I wanted to focus on. As I concentrated on understanding assignments and classes as much as I could, I could read books faster and began to understand English in class. It soon boosted my confidence and naturally, I started talking to people I had never seen before. Furthermore, as these academic bases have stabilized, I have also begun working at the festival in Center City this semester and as a staff member of various events within the school.

Next, family and friends in Korea helped me in diffusing my pressure from school. Phone calls with my mom and friends played a huge role in feeling better. We usually say that we realize the preciousness of something when things that we thought would exist next to us disappear. For me, family and friends in Korea have become even more important since I moved away. I didn’t know they were precious because I saw them every day in Korea; they played the role of motivation when I came to the U.S. to do various tasks. I know that many international students are reluctant to show their hard work to their family and friends. I still don’t open a hundred percent of my life to everyone. However, nothing can beat the pressure in the U.S. more than memories from home. Telling close people what I’m doing now, its processes, and what I expect from the task, helps recover mental breakdown more than we think. So if you are international students who are under a lot of pressure, try to be honest with the people around you.

Last but not least, relaxing by myself gave me a lot of chance to calm down and contemplate about my school life. In the U.S., there are so many assignments every day that it’s not always easy to make time for yourself, but when I give myself a break, it helps to manage everything. Through this time, I look back on my life, and as I feel better, I feel as if my worries are nothing.

I don’t think of the stress and pressure that goes on during school as a bad thing. Well-managed, stress also gives us the motivation to complete a variety of tasks efficiently. In particular, as mentioned earlier, it is natural for international students to feel stressed because they have a lot of work to adjust. However, if you try to hide the pressure, it will develop into a more severe problem. So let’s be proud of the pressure; it could be proof that we are living our best at the moment.