International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) is pleased to feature this guest post from Dr. Arna Erega of UT Austin’s Counseling and Mental Health Center.
Hello, international students! I hope your summer is going well so far. In this blog post, I’ll share a few tips about how to be a successful college student.
As you transition to college — and you travel halfway across the world — it is natural and expected that you may experience some challenges. Every college student experiences some adjustment in their own unique ways. Often these include uncertainty, anxiety, and shifting expectations.
Tips for Handling Uncertainty, Anxiety, and Expectations
I will discuss a few tips on how to deal with uncertainty and anxious feelings, and how to manage your expectations. Uncertainty is very common, especially among international students, for whom so many things depend on visas and immigration status. And with uncertainty comes anxiety.
Therefore, it’s natural that you may constantly be wondering “What’s next?” Or it could be that you’re always thinking about your next steps and backup plans. I get it! After being here in the United States for 14 years (many of those years as an international student), I can tell you that my thoughts are still characterized by feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.
Embracing Uncertainty, Facing Anxiety
Uncertainty causes us not to feel secure about what is right in front of us because we are busy thinking about the next thing. But how can you embrace uncertainty?
Try this: Sit down with the intent to face your uncertainty. Write down on a piece of paper what you feel uncertain about.
As you do this, allow yourself to think about what you are afraid of and write that down, too. I don’t want you to feel afraid or stuck thinking about what you do not want to happen. Once it’s written down, then you can face your fear and anxiety.
So, the last part of this strategy is to intentionally think of and write down the outcome you do want. Once you are clear about what you want, you can come up with a plan for how you can achieve that. Break that big goal into smaller, more achievable steps!
Expectation are your strong beliefs that something will happen or that someone will do something, and they can impact our reality, our mood, and our feelings. Managing expectations can sometimes be tricky, especially when they’re coupled with anxious feelings.
Try this: Pay attention to how you speak to yourself. One way to become more aware of your expectations is to notice your self-talk. Do you use phrases such as “I have to,” “I’m supposed to,” “I must,” or “I should have?”
If you do, then I encourage you to ask yourself where these thoughts really come from. These kinds of self-talk create a lot of pressure and contribute to anxious feelings. After all, who says that I must?
Try this: Practice decision-making without expectations. First, slow things down by assessing each situation honestly and truthfully, then make one decision at a time.
Ask yourself if you do things because you really want to—out of passion, enjoyment, and because they align with your values and what is important to you? If not, consider what might happen if you don’t do them. Maybe nothing!
Lastly, slow down and try to be present. By practicing mindfulness and being present in the moment, you can notice subtle changes in your mood and the expectations you may be placing on yourself.
Wishing you all success!
Dr. Arna Erega
Counseling and Mental Health Center
Feel free to reach out to Dr. Erega in the Counseling and Mental Health Center at email@example.com.