With my mental health struggles, I never thought I would be able to uproot myself and move to another country. However, RGU was with me every step of the way.
As someone who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety from a young age of 16, life has not been too easy. High school was very difficult for me as it involved a lot of body shaming and bullying. My undergraduate university degree was relatively better as I pursued a degree in a field that I absolutely LOVED. I also found great friends who supported me throughout. I managed to build a great CV through a number of internships and also graduate with flying colours.
Once I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, I wanted to study a Master’s course abroad. But many people told me that with my condition, uprooting a life from home and moving abroad would not be a good idea. To an extent, I understood that. I was apprehensive of the weather – I was used to lots of heat and sun all my life in India. I had no idea how my body and mind would react to really cold and at times, gloomy weather.
Moving to Aberdeen
During my first few days, I remember being anxious for days together. My anxiety would spike every time I had to do something new – like when I took the bus for the first time in Aberdeen, or when I bought groceries or when I was walking across the campus trying to figure my classroom. These were simple things, but with my illness, even simple things became exponentially hard.
Thankfully, I had really great flatmates. When I told them about how I was feeling, they were extremely understanding and said that they would be there for me. I became slightly more comfortable.
I also registered with my local GP and began visiting the doctor once a month. Both healthcare and medicines are free of charge in Scotland, therefore I did not have to worry about finances of my treatment.
How RGU helped
At my orientation, I registered for the Student Buddy scheme – a programme designed to connect current students with new students. I met one of my first friends through the scheme and she was the one that took me sightseeing around Aberdeen for the very first time. She also shared tips and advice on living in the city.
What also helped was the fact that I saw so much mental health activism in the RGU Campus. There were posters and flyers everywhere encouraging students to talk about their mental health. The RGU:Union and the university had several schemes, events and platforms to support student, especially on the mental health front. Here are some:
Counselling Services: Through the RGyoU page, students can make appointments with Counsellors and Student Wellbeing Advisors to discuss any issues concerning students.
RGU Nightline: RGU:Nightline is a student-led peer to peer helpline that offers a non-judgmental, confidential and anonymous listening and support service to students at Robert Gordon University outside of academic hours (operating form 8pm through until 8am).
SilverCloud: A self-directed platform that offers a choice of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programmes on depression, anxiety, stress and body image.
Therapets: An annual event organised to help with exams stress where therapy dogs visit campus.
These are just a few options that I can think off the top of my head and I’m sure there are so many more.
My GP recommended that I inform my course leader about my illness as he believed that I would have support on the academic front. My course leader taught me for two semesters and he was my advisor for my dissertation. Hence letting him know was a good decision, he often checked in to see how I was doing. When I had any absences or could not submit an assignment before deadline because of my anxiety and depression, I would let him know. Not only did he help me get excused or extend a deadline, he would hold meetings with me to understand what was going on with me.
There’s a lot of taboo around mental illness back home, but at RGU I felt extremely supported and cared for. Although the moving part was hard, every anxiety attack that I survived through made me stronger. I found great friends who have helped me to come so far and I am grateful to be studying at a university that gives so much importance to mental health.
Related Blogs: A leap of faith: Doing a Master’s degree at RGU