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Taking the pressure off foreign students

Skrevet af Melitka Križman - 18. november 2010 - 14:590 kommentarer

Are you a stranger in a strange land and in crisis? The Student Counseling Service is not among the best known services that CBS provides for its students. It is, however, the place where CBS students – definitely also international students – can go to get help if they are experiencing personal problems that affect not just their studies but reduce their quality of life in general.

The rough transition of leaving home and growing up
Most of the existential problems that CBS’ students, international or not, have are related to identity formation:

- We have a few international students who come here once in a while, but I do not think there is a specific pattern in the problems that students come to us with. When you come to CBS from another country, your coming here puts a pressure on your personality or identity. You have to define yourself in a new way, and I think this can be difficult for many young people, psychologist Mette Harpsøe, head of the CBS Student Counseling Service explains.

Adding cultural and physical distance to the mix
Just being a student is a condition that is strongly influenced by both one’s background and history and one’s apprehensions about an uncertain future. The latter influence is mainly focused on the future and career perspectives, which – especially with the current job market conditions and ongoing financial crisis – often appear insecure. The former, however, is related to our family backgrounds and possible traumatic experiences from our personal history, which were never rationally identified or dealt with.

As an international student, the daily challenge of simply being a student and having to cope with unfamiliar surroundings and ways of doing things at the same time can be quite stressful.

- When you are with your family and live there, the problems are so to say ‘just there’. When you go away, you get another perspective on your family and your relation to them, so it gets clearer what kind of problems there actually are and how you as a young person are yourself, says Mette Harpsøe and points out that study related issues are often only the visible extension of much deeper and hidden issues:

- Study related problems are usually not in the foreground when students come to us, the personal ones are. Many international students are very clever people, but coming here and then having to face a crisis can be very hard. Of course with your personal problems affecting your studies this can cause added concern regarding the long term prospect as well, Mette Harpsøe acknowledges.

The danger of also adding isolation to the mix
According to the experts there are, however, a number of things you can do yourself if you find yourself in a state of personal crisis. The most important is to keep in mind that all this is a natural process.

- It’s all about defining yourself. It’s about what kind of life you want to have. It’s about who you want to be. It’s about the big questions. It’s like an existential turning point that comes to everybody. What you first of all should do is to talk to your friends about it, Mette Harpsøe recommends.

International students, however, often lack a solid social network. This makes establishing your own social network in Denmark a priority – though it might not always be an easy asset to gain.

- Make it a priority to find a small group you can relate to very quickly after arriving. Having a network is the most important thing for doing well, also in your studies. So go and find where people you could relate to are to be found, Mette Harpsøe advises.

Your own expectations can be your worst enemy
What can also very helpful in coping with the pressures of being out on your own, studying in a foreign country is to simply loosen up. Try to be as flexible as possible and regard your road through this part of your life as an open map with many possible directions.

- If you have too fixed an image of how you should be, or of how your life should feel right now and even end up, these images can lock you into a small box. As a student you are at a phase of life that is a constant process of change, Mette Harpsøe points out.

If you need a helping hand getting to that point of coping, you can always visit CBS Student Counseling Service personally. There is help to be had.


CBS Student Counseling Service

AKA:                           Studenterrådgivningen på Frederiksberg

Address:                     Howitzvej 13, ground floor left

Opening hours:          Monday to Thursday from 9 am to 1 pm 
                                   Friday from 9 am to 1 pm

Phone:                        70 26 75 00 

Phone counseling:      Monday to Friday from 11-12 am