It’s 3 a.m., and I have class in five hours, but I suddenly felt compelled to start writing — and finishing — my blog posts again. Thanks to the shouting of students living across the hall preventing me from sleeping, I was scrolling through social media and stumbled upon a post my freshman-year roommate had written about graduating. Suddenly, I was hit with this sudden melancholy I assume most students feel right before graduating. But the difference is, I didn’t spend four years at SDSU. In fact, I feel so out of touch with events and life at SDSU that I was surprised to see this graduation reflection.
In my world over here, school ends mid-June, as does my college “career,” as they put it. It feels strange having to worry about yet another quiz tomorrow while other students who entered college with me are preparing for their big graduation ceremonies. I won’t officially graduate on time, nor will I walk across the auditorium for the last time alongside my college peers. This is my world as I know it.
I can’t say things have been going well in my world. When I came to China for my study abroad last fall and visited my grandparents, I found out my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer. But because at the time he was only taking traditional medicine, my mind didn’t 100% register it. Recently, he started radiotherapy, with much more obvious effects on his well-being. Helplessly watching someone you love in such pain and attempting to alleviate their negativity to no avail is difficult, to say the least. The impact is most visible on my academics. How could I, a normally decent student, now score C’s on tests and quizzes on a language that is technically my mother tongue? I can only describe this feeling with two words: absolute shame.
Maybe this is the part of my study abroad I shouldn’t talk about. Maybe I should have posted some more pictures of food or some architecture and discussed interesting facts or things I found entertaining. I should (and want) to keep things light-hearted, but the truth is the past few months have been hardly that.
Mental health is a crucial, albeit a rarely discussed, part of one’s study abroad experience, which is why I finally conjured up the will to write this. China is known for not being too mindful or acknowledging of mental health, and I was brought up under these guidelines. I only hope no one else feels constrained in their situation.
If, by chance, someone studying abroad or considering studying abroad is reading this, please make sure you are set up to be taken care of in all aspects, especially overseas where you might be most vulnerable — away from your normal support system and everything else familiar. It might make the difference between making and breaking your experience.
As I read the posts of fellow bloggers wondering if they’re going through remotely similar emotions or events, I can’t help but feel jealous of all their travels, their spontaneity. But I guess in a way, I am getting the true China experience, rooted by family and academics. Sometimes, especially lately, I question my decision to return to this country.
But somehow, despite it all, deep down I know it’s worth it. Some part of my metaphorical soul needed this last hurrah before (hopefully) jumping into the full-time working world for the rest of my life. The worst thing for me is wondering what could have been, the “what ifs.” Being here scratches off that big question that would have lingered over me until the end of existence. No more looking back now — only to the future.
Kat Dai is an International Security and Conflict Resolution major and Chinese minor. She is studying at the University of Peking for an academic year.