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Diary of an International Student

Diary of an International Student

Are you an international student who’s been struggling to find your place in Canada? Have you been feeling overwhelmed with the changes and have been finding it difficult to adjust?

If so, you’re not alone! Adjusting to change is hard, let alone starting over in a new country.

You’re probably going through different emotions and trying to establish yourself in a place that doesn’t really feel like home. If that’s the case, you’re probably going through stage 2 of your cultural adaptation journey.

Let’s look at these stages in more depth:

Stage 1: The Honeymoon Period

The honeymoon period is sort of like the beginning of any new experience, such as starting a new job or going into a new relationship. You are thrilled about all these exciting changes and are looking at things from a positive lens. You are probably intrigued by both the differences and similarities between the new culture and your home culture and you have lots of interest in learning and motivation to meet new people. You sort of feel like a tourist and can immediately imagine yourself staying here long-term…until stage 2 kicks in.

Stage 2: The Cultural Shock

By now, the excitement would’ve worn off a little and you’re starting to miss your friends and family back home. You’re likely putting a bigger emphasis on the differences between the two cultures and possibly thinking about how much you were taking things for granted when you were still back home. You may be starting to feel irritated and frustrated with having to constantly change your habits to adapt to these new norms. Little do you know, you start to search out your Canadian friends and focus on connecting with people who share the same values, language and probably the same taste in local foods and music. These new friends remind you of home and this becomes your new comfort zone. At least you now have a support system to go back to when you’re out exploring the Canadian context and little do you know, you find yourself in stage 3.

Stage 3: Adjustment  

You’re now pretty familiar with the context and although you may still be experiencing the occasional lows, you’re starting to feel little more hopeful and optimistic. Cultural cues are now easier to read and you’re beginning to feel more integrated into the new environment. You may see your sense of humor slowly return and find yourself enjoying activities outside of your comfort zone. Since you’re now past the “emotional stages” of cultural adjustment, you can now enter a stage of “deeper learning” and enhance your understanding of the world. You may even start to question some assumptions resulting from your own culture and begin to look at things from a new perspective. Next thing you know, you’ve reached the final stage.

Stage 4: Acceptance

Welcome to the final stage where the “new” culture is no longer new but is starting to feel like a second home. You are now focused on reaching your full potential and may be thinking of staying here long-term and planting some roots. You probably don’t want to go back home as much anymore and instead, you’re encouraging those back home to come visit you. You’ve finally reached the stage of biculturalism and have found your place between the two cultures.

A Last Thought

Can I share a piece of advice? Don’t rush it. Try to find meaning in every stage and know that each one has its own time. Be cognizant of the different stages and explore where you locate yourself. Know that if you’re feeling “foreign”, it won’t last forever. There’s probably thousands of other international students walking on this same path trying to find their place. And you will soon find yours.

If you missed this week’s webinar “Stranger In A Strange Land” on integrating in a new culture, make sure to watch the rerun here!

How to Manage Exam Anxiety

How to Manage Exam Anxiety

‘Tis the season! .. and no, I’m not talking about Christmas. It’s EXAM TIME!

But as exam period approaches, our anxiety is escalating. Right? We hear you and more than that, we understand you.

Over the past months, we’ve been in contact with many of you who haven’t been feeling too optimistic. That’s right, if you’re reading this, you are not alone! In fact, we’ve gathered 3 of the most common negative thought patterns experienced by students during exam period.

1. “If I don’t pass this exam, I’ll definitely feel like a failure”
In the therapy world, this is called a cognitive distortion. To put it simply, your mind is playing tricks on you and giving you an “all or nothing” perspective without leaving much room for a grey area allowing for the complexity of most people and most situations.

Our Suggestion? Take a breath, ground yourself and try to locate those shades of grey even if they seem overtaken by the black and white. Work on maintaining realistic expectations and remind yourself that there will always be room for improvement. Ask yourself if you remember that time when you failed an exam in high school. Did it suck back then? Sure. Did it keep you from being where you are today? Probably not. Think that in a few years from now, you’ll look back and this time in your life and realize that it probably wasn’t worth all the anxiety.

2. “If I get a grade lower than x%, then my GPA will be affected, which means that I may or may not graduate, which will  impact my chances to get good job, which will put me in a financial strain meaning that I won’t be able to pay my student loans, etc…”
The classic snowball effect. We’ve all been there. We imagine that our path will be drawn a certain way based on how this one event will go. Read this last sentence again. Doesn’t it sound a little irrational? To think that our whole life is defined by one outcome?

Our Suggestion? Stay specific and start small. Examine the things that you have control over at that moment and search for ways to improve them. Most of the time, the higher percentage of your anxiety is linked to irrational thoughts, aka things that you want to have control over but cannot (i.e. predicting every question in the exam or thinking that your whole life will be impacted if you don’t score a certain grade). In those situations, notice that a lot of your energy is wasted on things you can’t control- which may be why you’re left wondering why you’re feeling so exhausted at the end of the day when you haven’t really done much. Try to identity irrational thoughts so you are better equipped to handle them. Always look for the evidence and compare it to your negative thinking (i.e. what are the clear signs indicating that I will fail this exam?).

3. “School is not looking good for me anyway and my chances of graduating are low so what’s the point of studying?
This is one of the most common thought patterns experienced by all students. It’s easy to get unmotivated when there’s been a build-up of past events that have led to this moment.

Our Suggestion? Remember that it takes less effort to dwell in the negative patterns than to challenge them, so you will be tempted to just give up and you will find yourself in a negative spiral. Rather than just assume the worst, review your academic history and get a rational sense of where you stand today. You might be surprised that it’s not as bad as you had thought. If you’re still feeling pessimistic, reach out for support to get different opinions, whether that’s a therapist or an academic advisor. As hard as it can be, take that step and ask for help!

Building on that last piece of advice, no matter what you’re going through, you don’t have to go through it alone. Whether you’re having doubts about your future, or worried about your level of confidence or just concerned about your overall experience at school, there’s always someone you can reach out to. In fact, that’s what Real Campus is for. Real Campus offers you the chance to book a consult with an academic advisor or to speak to a clinical therapist for unlimited sessions, and all of that is free of cost!

Want support now or in the future? If you’re looking to gain new perspectives and improve your negative thought patterns but feel like you need support with that, we are here to help! There are different ways you can reach us: Chat with us using the chat bubble on the bottom right of this page, click on Get Support Now at the top right or simply call us at 1-877-390-REAL (7325).

How To Access Benefits Through Real Campus

How To Access Benefits Through Real Campus

We all know college is a stressful time! Between meeting deadlines, studying for exams, attending classes and making time for friends, we often lose sight of what’s most important: our Health. Real Campus is a Student Assistance Program designed to walk alongside you during your academic journey and to support you in reaching your full potential while paying attention to your physical and mental health.

Are you looking to access Real Campus services but now sure how? We got you! There’s so much to choose from with Real Campus so we wrote this blog to break down the services offered and help you make a decision about what you need.

LOOKING FOR QUICK ACCESS TO THERAPY?

Look no further! You can access On-Demand Therapy and speak to a therapist for 25 minutes through video, phone, or chat anytime between 8AM and 8PM. Basically like a virtual walk-in counselling clinic!. It’s free and completely confidential.

Here’s how

  • Visit www.realcampus.ca/maple
  • Scroll down, follow the simple steps to create an account
  • Upon creating an account, log in, select your presenting issue and be connected with a therapist within minutes!

LOOKING FOR LONGER THERAPY SESSIONS WITH THE SAME THERAPIST?

We get it, sometimes 25 minutes isn’t long enough and you may want consistency with who you’re seeing. Ongoing Therapy can offer you 50-minute sessions with a therapist. And get this: you’ll be able to manage your own session bookings online!

Here’s how:

  • Visit www.realcampus.ca/contact
  • Fill out the form, let us know you’re looking for ongoing therapy, and briefly describe your challenges so we can match you with the right therapist.
  • Submit the form and we will confirm your eligibility. You can expect to hear back from us within 24 hours with your next steps!
  • After we’ve booked your first session, you will receive a welcome email inviting you to activate your online account and fill out a digital intake form and a second email confirming your appointment details.

LOOKING FOR BROADER SUPPORT SERVICES?

Maybe therapy isn’t what you’re looking for and you feel like you may be needing a different type of support. We can help you get financial, legal, academic, and nutritional support.

Here’s how:

  • Visit www.realcampus.ca/contact
  • Fill out the form and let us know what type of support you are looking for. If you’re not sure, briefly describe your challenges so we can help you find the right support.
  • Submit the form and we will confirm your eligibility. You can expect to hear back from us within 24 hours with your next steps!

LOOKING FOR MEDICAL ADVICE?

Walk-in clinics can be a pain, and we hear you! As an eligible Real Campus student, you have access to a 24/7 virtual walk-in clinic where you can speak to a licensed physician over video, for free! Get prescriptions, diagnoses, and medical advice all through your phone.

Here’s how:

  • Visit www.realcampus.ca/maple
  • Scroll down, follow the simple steps to create an account
  • After creating an account, log in, select your symptoms, and be connected to a doctor within minutes.

STILL CONFUSED? NOT EXACTLY SURE WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR?

We’re here to help! You can speak directly to a Care Coordinator who will he happy to help you navigate the program and the different services offered.

  • Call us at 1-877-390-REAL (7325) between 8am and 8pm EST. After-hour calls will be redirected to Good2Talk, a post-secondary student helpline.
  • Visit realcampus.ca and use the live chat in the bottom corner.
  • Email us at hello@realcampus.ca

WANT IT ALL?

You can get access to all Real Campus services at the same time! For example, you can be seeing an ongoing therapist in person AND using the on-demand service!

Are you sick of reading yet? We’ll stop here. But seriously, reach out to us if you need anything! We are here to support you!

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