New country, new school, new people. All of these elements are bound to lead to a bit of a culture shock. Just as you might think you couldn’t be surprised by anything else, something else pops up and you end up with a little “huh” in your head.
On a regular Wednesday, I was done with my lab class early. A girl from my lab group took me under her wing to show me this ongoing event at Drexel, which had the purpose of creating awareness of mental health challenges. It’s something that I wouldn’t normally find at my home university in Denmark (at least not set up this way), so I was quite surprised by the initiative.
Without much thought, I found myself writing my name on a piece of paper and I was given a wristband to enter the event. The paper served as a stamp card – you could get a stamp for each booth you visited and when you were finished, you could hand it in for a chance to win prizes. Each booth provided new information regarding several different issues and challenges in mental health; ones that many students encounter on a daily basis, including myself.
Now, I don’t necessarily remember the order of the booths, but I do remember some of the overall information that they provided: There were both lists of phone numbers, people to contact – whether they be peers or professionals – in case you needed someone to talk to about anything at all. There was a coloring station where you could soothe your mind by grabbing a pen and get creative on this huge drawing. At several booths, thoughts positive about oneself and life in general were highlighted on a cardboard poster, while negative thoughts were “thrown away” by writing them down and putting them in a trashcan. I loved seeing the promotion of the qualities we see in ourselves and trying to get rid of some of those negative thoughts that many other people have as well as I do. I believe that it is something that all people struggle with – sometimes more, sometimes less.
While issues such as self-confidence or self-doubt cannot be solved in a day, I think it’s great that the university makes an effort to bring awareness to the topic. It can become very lonely because you might start to believe that you might be the only one having these thoughts, but seeing all those words – both positive and negative – on the boards at the booths makes you remember that you are, in fact, not alone.
To be honest, I didn’t think it would have an effect on me to go to such event. Most people know more or less what mental health is about. However, it did stir something inside me after all. I think the lesson here is that, while I love studying at my home university, there is always something new to learn, and it doesn’t always have to be academic. The saying goes “you learn as you live” and as you learn, you (hopefully) also grow as a person. Being an exchange student at a place so far from home is helping me do just that.
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