Top left to bottom right: Ragha Mohan, Aina Farid, Gunjan Singh Tomar, and Ankita Arun Sawant.
Hey there, my name is Ragha Mohan! I am an international student in my senior year studying psychology at the University of Wyoming (UW) and I am also the Health Promotion Intern at the Wellness Center on campus. With earning a degree in psychology and my passion for public health, I would like to help educate the readers of this article about the value of seeking help especially during stressful times and the importance using the resources available on campus including the Wellness Center. This article shares my personal experience and the experiences of other international students at UW during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With COVID-19 engulfing students’ lives across the country, fear, worry, anxiety, and loneliness can have a strong, negative impact on mental health. International students, who are valued assets to colleges and universities across the world, currently feel even more stress than usual because of the pandemic.
Some international students do not feel comfortable reaching out for help because of stigma and negative views surrounding mental health that their cultural backgrounds hold. Unfortunately, this may lead some international students to believe that seeking help for mental health would require an individual to be “severely ill” and they do not realize that there are plenty of supportive resources available for them to access on campus. Most of the universities across the country, including UW, provide resources for students in many areas of mental health. The rise in the usage of services across campus for mental health and wellness show students are taking advantage of these resources. International students at UW have been engaging with these free resources for the betterment of their well-being. After interviewing a few UW international students on their take on mental health and current social problems, there were a lot of positive aspects on how mental health is currently viewed by international students.
Aina Farid, a senior international student, mentioned that there is always stress for international students in universities because of immigration rules and policies. In addition, she also mentioned that mental health must be an important factor for students to recognize. Many students come from different countries and cultures that lack resources. Aina said, “Coming to UW helped me view more available resources students can get that are free to access.” Personally, I have used many free resources available at UW and this has helped me to be an advocate of these resources to students by helping them find and use the resources that result in the improvement of their personal and emotional well-being.
Another senior UW student, Gunjan Singh Tomar, mentioned that housing is a source of additional stress. They said that “Many international students do live by themselves and miss out on resources to help them and as a result, increase stress.” They also noted that, “Many students do receive advice and help when needed through the university, across Laramie and through family support and friends.” She also mentions that “housing has been a major issue for international students because of a high turn around rate has reduced due to financial reasons.” Relating to her point, it is important to highlight that international students initially have a tough time making friends because of comfortability in their own setting and making a good environment for themselves (mainly a replica of home) can be tough and challenging.
There are other impeding factors that have made life during the pandemic more mentally stressful like the travel ban. This means that many international students were not able to go back to their home country because of the reduction of flights to other countries during the pandemic. This has also been particularly stressful because students were not able to see their loved ones for a long time, resulting in poor mental and physical health.
UW alumni student, Ankita Arun Sawant, mentioned that she agrees that mental health resources are important across campus in different departments suggesting that many professors are giving resources by word of mouth to help students during their tough times. She also mentioned that the Wellness Center events, such as the Kitty and Doggy De-stressor, that happened on campus were effective for many students including herself.
The takeaway message from my experience and the experiences of other students is this: you are certainly not alone in this journey through college especially during a pandemic. To help combat mental stress and improve overall wellness, here are some programs offered virtually by the Wellness Center through Campus Recreation for the Fall semester:
- Self-Love and Happiness Workshop Series via Zoom
- Calligraphy with Kevin via Zoom
- Gatekeepers Training
- Big Sky Mindfulness Stress Reduction Workshops via Zoom
- Drop-in Meditation
- Instagram page:
Here are some additional resources available to you on campus, in the community, and nationally if you need support more than needed:
- International Students and Scholars office (ISS): (307) 766-5193
- Wellness Center: (307) 766-9355 or uwyo.edu/rec/wellness-center/index.html
- Residence Life and Dining Services: (307) 766-3175
- University Counseling Center: (307) 766-2187 or After Hours: (307) 766-8989 *does not need to be an emergency or crisis*
- Laramie Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (307) 977-7777
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1(800) 273-8255