“I’ve never seen a human surrounded by so many medical devices; Breathing tubes, drainage tubes, IV’s, and intravenous heart monitors… It was overwhelming. He was pale and shaking from either extreme cold or shock. Seeing your father in this vulnerable position unsettles your childhood illusion that your parents are invincible. We’re all human, death is inevitable… Thankfully now was not the time.”
I wrote the excerpt above the evening after my father’s surgery. The events I dealt with over the past six months were something out of a bad movie. Two of my closest friends in Canada died in August. My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in November and underwent surgery a few weeks ago. My father failed a stress test after Christmas, then received a quadruple heart bypass the week after my mom’s operation. Then, ironically, my uncle flew in to care for my parents and took a heart attack during dinner. Maybe there’s something to the cliché “everything happens in threes”…
Thankfully modern medicine pulled through and my family is recovering. Now to adjust to regular international student life.
Being a country apart when adversity strikes is challenging. You want to be there immediately when misfortune calls to grieve or offer support, but as an international student you have obligations underpinning your existence in the country. Specifically, ensuring funding from sponsors, maintaining GPA requirements, attending mandatory orientations and immigration check-ins, and enrolling in a mandated number of semester units.
Maintaining your sanity while fulfilling your obligations to your university and family can be difficult, but luckily SDSU has resources, staff, and policies that help students like myself and others facing unsettling situations.
If you’re not able to make the check-in dates and orientation due to extenuating circumstances, call or email the International Student Center. If you need to declare your major before signing up for classes, call the university major department and explain your situation, sometimes they can declare the major for you.
SDSU’s staff was quite helpful when I called from Canada. Admissions granted the option to change my acceptance to Fall 2016, but I didn’t want to push back my graduation date. So the International Student Center changed my immigration check-in date, Admissions arranged a meeting with an advisor to recap the transfer orientation and the business department declared my major so I could register for business courses.
I’m so grateful for the help I received because it allowed me to spend an extra week with my family. If you experience a similar situation, I recommend calling to see if there is any way they can help you out. If you’re attending your university when personal issues occur, they have other resources that can help you get through tough times.
Fortunately throughout this experience I had a strong network of people to talk to. I moved to San Diego with my Canadian boyfriend, so my biggest rock of all is beside me whenever I need him. If something happens to you and you feel there is no one to talk to, SDSU has Counselling and Psychological Services to support your personal, social, and emotional wellbeing.
Mental health is the most important of all, so never be afraid to seek help. Had I not had a group of supportive people around me, I would not have handled everything as I did. Many international students relocate on their own with their support networks hundreds to thousands of miles away, so take advantage of university resources when you need them.
With the events of the past few weeks behind me, I look forward to embracing all that San Diego has to offer; the beaches, weather, tacos, and good people. Its an upward trajectory from here, can’t wait to see what this semester has in store!
Dylan Morey is an international student from Alberta, Canada. He is majoring in marketing at San Diego State University.