Changing MENtality

International Study, Culture Shocks and Mental Health

April 30, 2021 Changing MENtality Season 2 Episode 9
Changing MENtality
International Study, Culture Shocks and Mental Health
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, George S speaks to Krai about his experiences as an international student from Thailand. They talk about UK and Thai culture, student life in the UK, and the challenges international students face to their mental health. 

Relevant resources to these subjects can be found below: 

  • Student Space - Online, one-stop shop’ for students in England and Wales who want to find help for their mental health or well-being.
  • Students Against Depression - The Students Against Depression website has lots of information about tackling depression and low mood, including self -help resources and workbooks for students to work through to start taking steps towards tackling low mood.
  • Student Minds website - Information about different support services available, including how to find them and what to expect when using them for the first time.
  • Samaritans - phone 116 123, email [email protected] - confidential listening service.

You can find other episodes of Changing MENtality here.
You can also find us on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter
here.

Further resources can be found below.

  • Your GP Service - can refer to specialist support and services.
  • University Student Support Services e.g. counseling, mental health advisers, student advice centre, students’ union. It's also worth looking out for university societies for international students. 
  • Papyrus - email [email protected] 
  • HOPELine UK - phone 0800 068 41 41: confidential service specifically for young people (under 35). They can offer crisis support for someone who is experiencing thoughts or feelings of suicide, as well as providing information and advice for those concerned about someone else.
  • NHS 111 - Non-emergency line run by the NHS.
  • 999 - for an emergency situation.



Joe:

Hello and welcome to the chanting mentality podcast, the podcast which aims to bring male students from across the UK together to have healing conversations about mental health. This podcast is brought to you in collaboration with student minds and comic relief. In this episode, George speaks to Krai an international student from Thailand. They're talking about UK and Thai culture, student life in the UK. And what are the challenges that international students face when it comes to their mental health? Just a reminder that we're not professionals, we're not counsellors, we're not supposed to give advice. However, you can access Student Space if you do feel you need support. It's an online hub for students who want to find help for their mental health and well being. It's got something for everyone, including a number you can ring or text and anonymously, so you don't have to worry about being overheard of this finding out. There's loads of articles on there to help you have a specification as to like dealing with grief and loss tips on making friends during a pandemic, and dealing with conflict. To get help from students space time following the address into your browser. Bit.ly/gotostudent space. Thank you, and we hope you enjoy the episode. Hey, everyone, welcome to changing mentality. This episode I'll be introducing Krai.

George S:

And we're going to be talking about what it's like being an international student. Do you want to just say a little bit about yourself? Yeah, thank you for

Krai:

having me, today. I would like to introduce myself. My name is Krai, Krai if my short name and my full name is Ritthikrai Boworngamol. Yeah, I'm from Bangkok, Thailand. And what are you studying grow, master student in corporate communication, marketing and Public Relations at university of Leeds. Nice. Have you found Leeds? Because I've been like, I thought is very friendly to students, especially for international students like me, because there are a lot of Thai restaurants, shops, and I can easily find food and making new friends.

George S:

Oh, great. Yeah, that's really important to student life. Yeah, so what made you want to study here, and I told you, Leeds is one of the student friendly campus in the UK, it is very compact in the way that I can walk around, go anywhere at night, and be safe. And the second reason is the it is the biggest, the second biggest city in the UK. So I quite trust in the international and

Krai:

commercial point of view of the city. And the last reason is, Leeds is the leading in the business and located in the top ranked for Business School.

George S:

Oh, okay, cool. So there's quite a few reasons. Like the attraction of the city and also of the university the kind of thing that you want to study. Yeah. Nice. So one topic I thought we were talking about was what it's like making friends as an international student in university can be a great opportunity to meet a lot of different people from different backgrounds and stuff. I've curiosity, what's it been like for you making friends? In the UK as an international student? Yeah, to be honest, I am a nervous person. I need to push myself a lot of the comfort zone to make new friends. But luckily, university of Leeds organises activity, a lot of activity that gathers students all together. And one of them called Global cafe. Where I can meet new people there. One of them become my current friend until today. I just talked with them yesterday. And I think we could be friend for life in the future. Oh, wow. So you've made a new friend already? Yeah. That's really cool. Yeah. Oh, wow. So it sounds like Leeds offers quite a lot for international students that can be helpful in surmounting some of those challenges that comes from trying to make friends and a new country. Yeah. So you're talking about the difficulty about being international student. And first thing that I've found it is language barrier. Because we come from like, different country. So we talk as they communicate everything in their own language. But I found that it's the kind of way to learn new things, especially culture. So we can learn culture from different people from students from around the world, who come to study at Leeds. It's very like

Krai:

And exchange the culture at the same time.

Unknown:

Do you find it sounds like it can be difficult talking in a second language, you do start to pick it up over time just through having to do it so consistently with English speakers.

Krai:

Yeah. But apart from the language itself, their own accents are different as well. That made me some time, like try to understand them with different accents. And especially a British accent is quite unique and cool. Yeah, I try to understand a lot of British accent which is quite different. Especially some in Liverpool. Some in Manchester, some in London, they are totally different. Yeah, that's a real diversity of accents in the UK. I remember. I visited a friend in France. And although her housemates spoke pretty good English, even though they could understand my friend, they find it more difficult to understand me. And apparently it's because I have more of an accent than she does. Which is I didn't realise that but yeah, yeah. Very interesting. Yeah. And so as you mentioned, as well you kind of learning about different cultures and stuff. I wonder if you could give some examples perhaps, of some things that are different that you've learned about, say UK culture. For UK culture is actually people in UK and people in Thailand are the same. I mean, they are all friendly. They not like arrogant try to make new friends. Everyone in here try to say hi, and have a nice greeting. Like, heya which is quite like, culture shock for me sometime. Yeah, I'm glad to hear that you've experienced that from British students, they are friendly and stuff. When you say, culture shock and the food like what? What do you find is so different about the food for you? Most UK, British food are quite oily. And I sometime like try to finish all the portion. The portion is quite big for me to finish. And sometimes it's oily, so I need to order like Pepsi or cola to to make it a good combination between oily food and the cola.

George S:

Okay, yeah. How have you found the I know a lot of international audience can complain about British food. And sometimes breastfeed blindly and not keen on British food. Do you like British food? Do you like, I know you mentioned as well that you've been, you've found some good Thai restaurants and stuff. It's wondering, just in general, what is your experience of the food been like?

Krai:

Yeah, I told you. Leeds is Friendly for international students to study and live in I think I can find Thai food all around the corner. I mean, I can buy Thai food, every corner of Leeds. Because there are about it's about three or four, Thai shop in Leeds, And about five Thai restaurant in Leeds, so I think in terms of Thai food, I don't mind about that. Because it's very easy to find Thai food in the

George S:

That's good. Yeah. And it's the Thai food, good quality or like, like does it compared to the kind of Thai food that you get back home? Does it measure up well, I could say that, if not like totally authentic. As same as I can find in Thailand because sometimes for example, Thai green curry from aparent, I mean from the from the look outside is same, the same because they are green curry and some like Thai herb on top of the curry but when I

Krai:

actually eat it I found It's very weird service because they put some veg, because normally Thai people Thai green curry with some veg in there but in here they put some cucumber spinach on Thai green curry with we totally don't get it

George S:

so messing with the recipe and stuff. Yeah, recipe and ingredient are totally different. Okay? Yeah, see Oh, this is what I'd like to go to Thailand because I really like Thai food but I've only ever had it in the UK. So maybe I'm being misled as to what it even is, is there a specific kind of food or a certain meal that you hadn't had until you came to the UK that you discovered you really like? I found the food are the same because Thai people like to eat fried stuff. Like for example, fish and chips, which is the traditional British food.

Krai:

We can buy fish and chip around the corner. And more interesting thing that I bought is dessert, or, British people always call it pudding, I found this that pudding in the UK are very, very impressive for me. There are a lot of them. I try and I can't wait to ... sticky toffee pudding and fig roll.

Unknown:

Okay, do you not have those? Is that like a they don't do that in Thailand?

Krai:

I rarely find sticky toffee pudding and fig roll in Thailand Because I think some if the local food in UK because I can find fig in Thailand.

George S:

Oh, okay. Oh, I'm glad. It's Yeah, I think if you spoke to a lot of British people, they they would expect people from Thailand to not be very keen on the food. So I'm I'm glad we've at least got a couple of desserts. Yeah, people like, Is there any food which you've tried since coming to the UK, which you really don't like?

Krai:

To be honest, I quite like all the food in here. But sometimes they are pretty oily as I told you and the quantity, I mean portion of the meal in ether is a little bit huge for me to finish.

George S:

Yeah, I have that problem as well. So we spoken about food and also about what it's like making friends. I wanted to ask as well what it's like studying in the UK. So yeah, what's been your experience of that so far?

Krai:

from a study in the UK impressed me in the way that they open for every idea every opionion in which people can argue and discuss about thing publicly and positively lead to many development, for example, students and university members discuss and implement about smoke free campus. And another thing is lecturer can skip the class to join the union. And gain a fair wage without working difficulty.

George S:

Okay, and so do you find it, there's more openness to that kind of discussion than you found? Perhaps back home?

Krai:

Yeah.

George S:

That's interesting. What is that? What's that been like to experience

Krai:

in, in Thai culture in the Thai classroom, uh, Students away, indirect and shy to ask question to teacher or lecturer. They try to remember all the things that they told them to remember. Without like, asking question back to the teacher. Why it is. Why is that? It is the Thai culture of learning things in class,

George S:

okay, that's interesting. So yeah, that's like, maybe students here are more. Would you say? Are they more confident when it comes to asking questions or sort of trying to clarify something they haven't understood?

Krai:

Yeah, they try to, like curious and confident to ask back to the one who gave that information. Because sometimes the information that they given maybe not fully true, and some argument can be discussed. And okay.

George S:

And so, you spoke about what you like about studying here. I was interested as to what kind of challenges being an international student can cause. So, for instance, I think a lot of international students are studying and what for them as a second language. I just wondered if you wanted to Go into that.

Krai:

Yeah. And for me, friend and society are very important to go through any challenge. I always discuss about classes assignment, at, say, our dissertation with friends, or even my supervisor with optimism and openness. So I truly encourage everyone have the same challenges be to be as open minded as possible because it will be the first step to stand your path and overcome any problem at the uni. Right? Yes,

George S:

I hear in that you're kind of encouraging, even though as an international student, one might struggle, the best thing to do is really kind of reach out to other people reach out to friends and lecturers and supervisors and kind of make it clear when you need help.

Krai:

Yeah, it's important thing that you shout out your need, and your concern to other in order to share your idea and share your difficulty at the moment so that someone may have the same problem with you can share everything, and maybe you are difficult. Our your problem might be like little part of them.

George S:

Yeah, I think that's, that's a really good point that often, if we have a problem studying, we can think it's just us and that we're alone. But then you reach out to people and you discover that actually, this is quite a common problem. And I think there's a lot of problems which are quite universal to students, all of us are going to experience at some point or another. And so, but like, it's easy to feel like you're alone until you talk about it to other people, when you realise actually, they're going through something very similar.

Krai:

Yeah. Because everyone come to the UK, not not in the UK, but they are from different countries around the world. And have they come here alone? like you and me, for example, because they want to learn new thing. It's not that difficult to share your own idea and own problem with everyone, because they have the common problem with you sometime.

George S:

Yeah, I think that's important. Yeah. So I wanted to spoken about studying, I wanted to ask about university life as well as student life as an international student. So one of the things that students in general experience if they go to uni, away from home, even if it's in the same country is just getting to experience a new city. Obviously, as an international student, you're experiencing a whole new culture and just like the city, a whole new country, really. So what's that been like for you?

Krai:

I think everyone including student like to travel, and travel can be an effective way to explore and learn culture. I've been in many tourist attractions around the UK, for example, Betty cafe in York, I see how British people enjoy the afternoon tea. It is truly the same when I saw in television, or internet. And I found like, they're quite totally different in terms of the decoration of afternoon tea I saw in television and in the cafe.

George S:

Okay, so it's what were you expecting from what you've seen on TV?

Krai:

Because I expect that they have some kind of traditional pouring tea to the cup, and how to like, put the mug properly. Like, I saw some YouTube videos, they teach how to pour tea onto the mug and the dimension of holding the mug into, like, drinking how to drinking properly.

George S:

Yeah. Okay, so I haven't seen I'll have to have a look at that. Yeah, it's, it's funny, I suppose it's not. It's not as traditional as that. But at the same time in Britain, the reputation British people have for really liking tea does hold up. I think is what Betty's Tea Room I've actually never been, but it is. I think it's quite big up north. There was one in New York where I studied, but I think it's pretty considered pretty fancy.

Krai:

Yeah, but I found that most people like not to put the tea back onto the jar first. They put the tea back onto the mug instantly, and pour the hot water on it and just wait two or three minutes. Then pull out the tea bag and then put some sugar and milk that is not very traditional, like I thought in that video at all.

George S:

Okay, yeah, I think traditionally use a teapot and stuff. But in the UK, I think for most people now, we're a little bit lazy. So we just do it as quickly as possible. Oh, yeah. So one thing a lot of internationals talk about is the experience of a kind of culture shock, when they come over here, everything's very different, or might be very different for what they used to. Did you experience that? What was that? Like?

Krai:

Yeah, one of my culture shock in here is timing. I mean, the punctuality of people here, everything needs to be appointment. I mean, everything needs to be appoint. And without appointment, you cannot access to any service, healthcare or even talk with someone. You cannot go to GP or medical healthcare and say you are sick. And I want to meet doctor, if you are not in coma or in urgent, you need to call for appointment with it's quite difficult to access some time, especially during the COVID-19. It's very, very, like, tough for me to access any medical service. And most of the service are automatic.

George S:

Yeah. Yeah. That's interesting. How does that differ from Thailand?

Krai:

In Thailand, there are a lot of like private hospital, which everyone can go to the hospital and can see doctor within half an hour in case of private hospital, but in terms of like government hospital, we need to have queue as well. And we need to do the queue for a long time in the morning. For example, you need to go to government hospital very early in the morning at five o'clock. And you can see the doctor about afternoon.

George S:

Oh, wow, this is really long. Wait, then.

Krai:

Yeah, long wait and even they have appointment for you. But we you cannot expect to meet or see Doctor

George S:

Okay. Yeah, I didn't know that. Yeah. Yeah. In the UK, I think we are pretty big on punctuality, scheduling everything. I even do that with friends where, like, if I call a friend on the phone, I agree in advance a time, and then call them that. And then if they call me randomly in the day, I get really freaked out.

Krai:

Yeah. Do you do to like, prior? notify someone want to talk too first? Maybe text them? And maybe give them a call first? Before talking? Yeah.

George S:

Yeah. calling to tell them that you're gonna call them later?

Krai:

Yeah, something like that.

George S:

Yeah, you mentioned time, like the difference in the time zones and stuff as well. And when I was reading, about did some research on what it's like being in international student. And one thing that people were saying was, it can be very hard to keep in contact with friends and family back home, because because you're in a different time zone. You're constantly trying to make it so that the time zones overlap, so you can talk and sometimes it sounds like it can be pretty difficult.

Krai:

Yeah, for me, it's quite difficult. But the time difference between UK and Thailand is about six to seven hour because Thai will be ahead of the time zone in UK. But in terms of timezone for me, it's not my difficult at all.

George S:

Okay, see, you're able to chat to friends and family and stuff.

Krai:

Yeah, it's very easy.

George S:

Oh, that's good. Then in terms of the whole culture shock thing I wanted to ask, was there anything that really surprised you when you moved to the UK that maybe you weren't expecting?

Krai:

In terms of appointment and timing I'm quite caught up with that. But I, I like transportation here, especially train. I heard a lot of people complain about it, but a different thing. It is very punctual and manageable if you were prepared enough in advance. I could say this because I come from Asian country, Thailand, where they are less likely to trust bus and trains schedule.

George S:

Yeah, maybe that's something we take for granted then in the UK. I think we do definitely moan a lot about the train service and stuff. But yeah, it is. It can be pretty reliable. And I mean, I use trains a lot. Really, because I don't drive or anything and it's it's great. It's being able to go all around the country.

Krai:

Yeah, they are a lot of like connection between big city and big city, even small city as well. They are like connection connecting train to everywhere around the UK. I like it.

George S:

Yeah. Oh, one thing I meant to ask you earlier,

Krai:

you mentioned that you've travelled a little bit around the UK. I wanted to ask where you've been. I mostly use train because I can use the rail card for students which have a lot of like discounts. Okay, I can go to London, just only 20 to 30 pounds per round.

George S:

When you went to London, what kind of stuff did you go to?

Krai:

I mean, I went to some cafe and went to buy some stuff. Some important stuff. I went to London to participate in the countdown even last year. Very easy.

George S:

Oh, it's a countdown for New Year.

Krai:

Yeah. Oh, that's cool. I

George S:

don't know if I've ever been in London when that's happened. What was it like?

Krai:

It's happened in in front of the big, big eye London big eye, know is like any to stand there for about three hours before the event happened. It's quite cold, But I can feel that more made up new year because a lot of people try to run, try to like take your best space in front of the best part. So they can see the firework and see light in the good position.

George S:

Oh, okay. Oh, that sounds pretty cool to in terms of talking about student life and stuff. What do you most enjoy about being a student here,

Krai:

I can have an international scale of classroom, which I can exchange my word, my idea, my opinion to others freely, develop my perspective a lot to wet the world and to the society. And study here provide me to think out of the box. And if I could say that it's very too short, as if last only a year as a master student in the UK.

George S:

Yeah, I think that is definitely a challenge. Being a master's student, I experienced that. Because I was a master student in Southampton for my MA. And it's difficult because because it is only one year you get there. And it's like, oh, I want to make new friends meet new people and stuff. But before you know it, it's like it's over. And it's kind of it can be a really good experience. But it's a bit of a challenge. Because you don't have, say like the three years you have as an undergrad to settle in and really get to know people.

Krai:

Yeah. quite short.

George S:

Yeah. So we've spoken about what Student Life is like for international students. One thing I did want to talk about was what it's like being in an international student when it comes to the issue of mental health because obviously, that's a big focus of the Changing MENtality podcast. So what are some of the challenges do you think that come with being an international machine? Yeah,

Krai:

I told you about a challenge in the early part of this podcast is language, also food, friends, for my experience, very easy to manage, as long as you are trying to be open minded, and try to learn new things all the time. All the challenges can be overcome, if you open to learn open to try to live with it.

George S:

Are there any things you feel you've learned that have helped you in doing that?

Krai:

I could say that it is unavoidable to say I may have a mental health at first, but it is about time that will solve in collaborate with your personality. You need to adapt yourself to be more open minded, it seem difficult, but possible because I have been thtrough it for a year. And I can then here to tell you the story tell you my experience. So for those who are concerned about if you have time to try out about what way fit to your preference, and after listen to my experience, I think you can adapt as your own way.

George S:

So many students struggle with homesickness, especially when they first move out. But for international students, obviously they're moving to a totally different country so that can be particularly strong. So what's been your experience of homesickness

Krai:

To me homesick in form of missing Thai food. And I tell you, there are a lot of Thai restaurant Thai food around the UK, especially in Leeds. But some of ingredients some recipe are totally different because they cannot find local herb local veg to replace. They put some like courgette instead of cucumber, sometime and I remind myself when I'm down And I feel like don't do anything. So after I had Thai food, especially spicy one, for example, tom yum goong, basil with chili, I feel a lot better. And it is a kind of, energise myself to get through any activity. Any class, any lecture that I think of food, of energy to recharge myself to get through any difficulty, including mental health.

George S:

yeah, having that kind of maybe sort of a bit of that contact from back home just even if it's just in having some of the food that you will enjoy from Thailand.

Krai:

Yeah.

George S:

I suppose you might have already answered this question to some extent, but that particular things you missed from your home country? I mean, you might a lot of international students might miss friends or family or their favourite places, stuff like that.

Krai:

Yeah. Had I told you a particular thing that I miss a lot is food. And I can try to go to Thai restaurant, take some Thai take away. And if they do my level of missing home, and another thing is family. But as you know, technology can help people to talk and see each other easier. So in terms of like, home fear of missing family, it's not a big deal at all for me.

George S:

I guess. Yeah. Like, I think that's important was like, it's not necessarily that it's impossible to stay in touch with friends and family. If you were starting in another country, it's just a matter of using the technology, which happily, we have to kind of make that happen.

Krai:

Yeah. Yeah. So Well,

George S:

I suppose, as a podcast about mental health, we're not really here to give advice on what we should do if they're struggling. And you may have already answered this, to some extent, are there any other things that you've found helpful in dealing with feelings of homesickness,

Krai:

I think talking with a friend and talking with your family can help you a lot to relieve and reduce the level of mental health. So in terms of like, how to dealing with a feeling of homesickness, I think the first very easy way to reduce the level of stress or depression, you can talk to your friend, talk to your flatmate, and maybe talk to yourself, and what happened and try to rewrite on the thin first, and you can find out that it's not a big deal, living in the UK, and everywhere in the world alone, because people travel and share their location all the time. It's not unusual to feel we have some time staying in different places. The point is, to try to open minded as much as possible to learn thing and try to adapt yourself with new environment. I think this kind of personality will help you to get through any kind of problem, including mental health.

George S:

Yeah, I think what you mentioned, especially about kind of normalising it and saying, you know, it's not unusual to feel a bit 'off' or a bit weird when you were in a different country like that. It's perfectly natural to feel that. So if there are international students listening to this, who are struggling, I think it's important to stress that that's very common, and it's understandable. But as you say, it's it's Can't you know, this experience of living in different places, is itself a very common one. And there are ways you can respond to that, which allow you to make the most of it and I think especially what you said about talking to friends and housemates, I mean, certainly for me, just talking to housemates, when I was at uni, it was really helpful because they're just people who are often like they're very consistently around And it's just quite nice. Even if you're not talking about anything particularly deep, just having people around, you can chat to you regularly can help you overcome that sense of feeling isolated or feeling like you're stuck in your own head.

Krai:

Yeah, I think this is very common, and when very understandable to talk with someone who can trust, but at the same time, you need to have some like, boundaries with each other because you have to realise that they might have that one problem, and you might have got one problem as well. So in order to get through all together, this mental health during this crisis, maybe this COVID-19 people might have a lot of mental health. But I think, understanding people is some kind of thing that people have to realise and adapt to their own. So we can live together, share difficulty with empathy.

George S:

Yeah, I like that point about the boundaries and stuff, because it, I mean, both were friends, but perhaps, especially if you're living with other people, it can be easy for those boundaries to get blurry. And maybe if you've got housemates, who have mental health problems, sometimes they might really want to talk about that stuff. And while of course, we want to be there, for people who have those problems, it's important to realise what you can do and what you can't do. And to have that clear in your mind and maybe realise that some problems, people, you know, might be having that. Maybe it's not in your powers to kind of fix them. But you can do things like point them to support. And so yeah, I think that that's, that matters. And it matters as far as you say, like, especially in this time, where it is a pandemic, and people are going through an awful lot. Just being sensitive to that and realising man, I find this helpful, both for myself and for other people realising that if I feel a bit off, or if, you know, a little bit depressed or a little bit anxious, or if other people I know seem that way, realising the context of that, that it is in this pandemic, we're all going through and trying to navigate, I think that can can help give the kind of empathy that you mentioned.

Krai:

Yeah. Yeah. That's cool.

George S:

Was there anything else that you wanted to talk about? Regarding being an international student that maybe we haven't touched so far?

Krai:

I think we cover everything that I like to share my experience, because the point is to be as open minded, and everything gonna be fine.

George S:

Yeah, well, thank you for sharing all of that. It's, it's good to get the voice of an international student on a podcast like this, because I feel like sometimes, it's a perspective that's not always that well known about, or that well understood.

Krai:

Yeah. Thank you, you too, to share your experience and like try to know from international student point of view, hope everything I share today will be beneficial for everyone or someone who struggling in mental health or any kind of difficulty at the moment. I hope my experience and my points of view can. So more or less, your difficulty, and your problem.

George S:

Thank you for coming on the podcast.

Krai:

Thank you very much.

Joe:

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Changing MENtality podcast. emember, if you need support ith your mental health, you can lways access student space by oing to bit dot our way forward lash go to student space, you an contact the Samaritans a 116123. And it's also wort checking if there's any ne university societies fo international students at you university. You can follow us o social media by searching @ changing mentality podcast. And finally, if you've got any episode ideas, or suggestions, please go to bit.ly/suggest nepisode. Thank you and take ca e.