Have you ever wondered how international students who study in the U.S. universities go through their college career during this global pandemic? Well, I can tell you that it is definitely not an easy journey.
I am an international student from Almaty, Kazakhstan, studying finance and computer science at Adelphi University Honors College. This year I am unfortunately one of those foreign students who had no option but to go back to their home country, and take the semester entirely in a remote format. To be honest with you, I was more than confident that completing a college semester online would not be a challenge at all.
In just the second month of the semester, however, everything turned upside down. I lacked all motivation and felt fatigue pretty much all the time. No time for rest, not getting enough sleep, and feeling isolated from the entire world and extremely stressed out -- that's how I was every single day. My friends and family kept checking on me to make sure I was OK, and they knew I was very tired, extremely stressed and having mental breakdowns. This was the time when I realized that I might need to reach out for help from my mentor, college professors, and friends.
Here is the issue: I tend to be a perfectionist. Ever since high school, I have always seen myself as a high achiever. I graduated high school with honors and received several awards for achievement in academics and social contribution. In college, I am in the honors program, and every semester I am on the dean's list. So, I am used to not asking for help. I try to figure out things on my own, and have felt very proud of myself for my hard work and accomplishments. This pandemic has opened my eyes. I realize that I have been so hard on myself by not asking for any support and help from the people around me.
My overloaded schedule didn’t help matters. Due to the time difference between Almaty and New York, I have been 11 hours ahead for my classes, my remote job, and the NASA Mission Concept Academy (MCA) program. From the very beginning of the semester, I set a very strict schedule, planning every single minute so that I would succeed despite the time difference. My schedule has been something like this: classes from 8PM until 4AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and from 10PM until 2AM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Not all my professors were aware that I was taking their classes at off hours because I have never asked them for any additional accommodations or extensions for assignments. Spending at least 10-15 hours a day on schoolwork, working 15-20 hours a week remotely for the admissions office, and somehow managing to do work for my NASA MCA program where I am a Lead Administrator for the Lucynauts team meant that I didn’t get enough sleep and I was always exhausted. Moreover, at Adelphi I am president of Adlephi’s APICS student organization, where I hold the position of a president, and serve as fundraising committee chair of Delta Sigma Pi professional fraternity. This is all pretty crazy for a high-achieving college student who wants to be a leader in everything but is totally ignoring her physical health, mental well-being and personal life.
I would be unable to manage this all on my own. A special thank-you goes to my mentor, Olga Bashkatova, who has supported me tremendously during this rough semester. She taught me to ask for help and not be so hard on myself. An additional thank-you goes to Beth Meixner, the founder of the Jr. Moxxie mentoring program, for giving me an opportunity to be a part of this amazing community of successful business women. And a huge thank-you goes to the administration and faculty members of Robert B. Willumstad Business School at Adelphi University, to the administration of the Honors College and my co-workers at the university admissions office. I am especially grateful for my family and friends, the Adelphi University community, and the Lucynauts NASA team for the genuine support and help! Thank you all for doing your best to make sure I am managing during this very difficult time in my life.
If any of you college students are feeling really down, remember that you’re not alone. This is a very hard time for all of us, so make sure you reach out for help and help others as well. We can get through this pandemic together!
Danelya Zhoildasbekova is a Jr. Moxxie mentee and international student at Adelphi University.