Mental health is an extremely important topic that everyone needs to pay attention to. Especially students at university – and even more so for students on their Year Abroad – where homesickness, stress, substance abuse, comfort eating and a whole range of anxiety-induced problems can be evident.
Admitting that your mental health is not as good as it should be will be difficult as only you yourself know just how low you’re feeling. But with the lack of ‘real’ physical symptoms it’s hard to go to a GP and express how you feel, how it affects your life and those around you. One good thing about university is the mental health/wellbeing services that are available to help students going through a tough time. The only negative thing I have to say about Southampton’s services is its lack of visibility and publicity. It needs to be more obvious. I remember having just one talk about the centre during first year. It didn’t leave much of an impression on me despite my own mental health. We need more students to work alongside the university’s services to make mental health a topic that we are all discussing openly. (By the look of things on social media, Student Minds is becoming more apparent this year, so am hoping to get involved with that on my return.)
The Year Abroad will undoubtedly heighten all these anxieties during your university experience, regardless of whether you see yourself as a mentally stable and secure person. Moving to another country is exciting, nerve-wracking and scary. I was graced with a whole host of emotions in the run up to my flight to Mexico. But once I’d stepped on Mexican soil, I was happy, excited, and proud of myself for supposedly choosing the ‘brave’ option of Central America. It was only when I’d moved into my host family’s home that it hit me: I’m living, and working, in this small, extremely hot, pretty alien city for the next 10 months, and I’m missing out on another year with my amazing Southampton housemates.
After a week in Colima
Trying to rid myself of this negative attitude which is definitely not how I expected, or wanted, myself to act, I explored the city a little bit and have discovered a few gems such as the creative, hipster culture centre called La Artería, and the lovely little town of Comala. I also have a number of eateries on my saved places on Foursquare that I need to check out. I’ve figured out a few areas I definitely want to visit while I’m here in Mexico, like Guadalajara, with its museums, Mariachi culture, and vibrant markets. I’ve started a thread on Couchsurfing, and have joined their Colima Facebook group as a way to meet new people. I’ve also realised that I’d prefer to live with students rather than my host family. I want to put myself out there, meet new people, visit new places and experience the culture alongside people my own age. With all this in mind I’m not viewing the house-hunt process or the whole year as a stressful, worrying one; I’m going to take it as it comes.