A story untold...
As other 1,095,299 international students came to the United States for dreams, Shihan came here for her family expectations. Top 20 university, business major, half tuition-covered scholarship, she was living her best life until the moment she decided to pursue her passion.
In her second year in college, Shihan took the introductory class in media studies and fell in love with it. Earlier on when she brought up with her parents her interests in filmmaking, they ended up in heated arguments. Her parents warned her not to risk her future and before she could make the right decision, they would no longer pay for her living expenses. But she didn’t understand why she wouldn’t be able to make a living doing what she likes to do. So she went ahead to switch her major without telling her parents. That was her first ever rebellious act. She felt vulnerable but kept everything to herself.
With the high hopes to prove herself to her parents, Shihan put all her effort into schoolwork. However, her hard work was only paid by a passing grade in her film history class. Everything came down to one thing, language. She thought she would never catch up with her American classmates. She slipped into the deep disappointment of herself.
She couldn’t fall asleep way past midnight, thinking “I am such a failure.” And that became common night after night. Even melatonin wasn’t much of a help. She became quiet when her friends asked her to go out. “Are you okay?” “I’m fine. I just need more sleep.” She thought she was just tired of people talking about school and wanted to stay away from the crowd.
From then on, she started skipping classes. Although she knew something might go wrong, she couldn’t stop herself from doing that. She stayed in bed in her dorm from day to day. Participation grades were hurt. Exams also went sour. Besides losing the scholarship, she was, at the end, put on academic probation.
This winter break, she stayed in school by herself. Though she was so homesick, she couldn’t face her parents. She made up a story titled “everything is okay.” She plunged into a deep depression. She had been sick for weeks. The pain and fatigue cracked her down. All the pills she brought to the States were gone. She knew her life was cracked like herself. It was the first time she thought about ending it all, just like her journey in the US is about to end.
Help could have come early...
I started helping Shihan after she was found cutting herself in her dorm. She is diagnosed with major depressive disorder with self-injury. It takes months or sometimes up to years to cure.
In my heart, I screamed “get help” as her story was unveiled. So many moments in her story could be the turning point. What if she told someone trustworthy about her conflicts with her parents. What if somebody stepped in and guided her on how to accept failure and recognize strengths. What if she went to the clinic to check her sleeping condition. What if her friends convinced her to see the counselor.
There are many chances for bystanders to stop her mental condition from getting worse. But none of them happened before I met her. She was not aware of her mental conditions. Instead, she isolated herself from the crowd to hide her vulnerability. The lack of emotional support drove her to the abyss, filled with helplessness and hopelessness. All was because she was afraid of being a burden for her family and friends.
This is why I started MAZE to empower peers in educating and supporting fellow international students. Many steps should have happened before international students like her come to a therapist’s office.
Trained peers would be able to identify signs of their fellows in emotional distress, de-stigmatize their perceptions of help-seeking, relate to their study abroad challenges, speak in their language, and link them with helpful resources and services. With trained peers on every college campus, many more international students in need could be helped earlier and more effectively.
So we call for your ACTION today!
This winter, with a small donation, you will