Hey guys! My name is David Zulli and I am a 3rd-year International Relations and Global Studies and Anthropology double major with a certificate in Spanish for Business Professions. This fall, I have the privilege of studying in Granada, Spain, a small city in Southern Iberia.
Throughout these past few months, in addition to living a rather Instagram-worthy, “fairy tale” life, I have been dealing with a lot of issues with my mental health. In the States, students like myself often experience mental health issues as a result of stress from school, work, and extracurricular engagements. However, while studying abroad, I have had significantly less homework and far fewer responsibilities. So, logically, if my experiences with poor mental health in the States are tied to school, I shouldn’t have any stress this semester, right? Unfortunately, that has not been the case. In fact, it has been this lack of constant school-related stress that has fostered my encounters with poor mental health while abroad.
For the first time in years, I now have the time and mental energy to address long-standing personal issues that I have been ignoring for years. I’ll spare you all the details, but essentially these past few months have allowed me to reflect on who I am as a person and what I want to accomplish with my future. Do I really want to go to graduate school? Is my career path really the best option for me? Am I prioritizing the right things in life? Is my relationship with my parents all that it can be? How can I reconcile differing ideas of faith and identity? Is living my most authentic truth attainable? These are just some of the questions that I have been asking myself recently. As you can see, they address rather deep matters of the heart and soul, and thus have often been difficult to confront.
However, throughout this process of arduous self-reflection, I have found some sense of healing, and for that I am thankful. I am thankful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fulfill dreams of travel, exploration, and adventure, but I am even more thankful for this unique time to pause, rest, and grow. Yes, my time at UT has given me many opportunities to grow as a student, broaden my horizons, and discover new passions, all of which I value much. However, in this constant cycle of resume bolstering, GPA boosting, and network building, we often neglect the person at the very center of all these pursuits: ourselves. That is why I encourage you, if you have the means and time, to study abroad as an undergraduate.
This experience, for me and many other students, has played a pivotal role in our own journeys of self-discovery and growth. However, if studying abroad is not an option for you, I still encourage you to find ways to incorporate mental and emotional self-care into your regular routine. I know that it is often easier said than done, but creating a space to truly and intimately understand yourself, as I have learned, is priceless. I look forward to seeing who I will be by the end of this semester, and I hope to continue this journey when I return.
Program Coordinator note: To assist our students as they navigate their mental health during their time abroad, International SOS provides a short-term counseling service called Enhanced Emotional Support through a partnership with WorkPlace Options. With Emotional Support, students are able to call International SOS any time, day or night, and receive counseling from an English-speaking mental health professional. Depending on the needs of the student and availability, students can receive counseling over the phone, through a video-call, or face-to-face. To receive support, contact International SOS at +1-215-942-8059 or +1-215-942-8478 or through the ISOS Assistance App. Find more information here>>
Students at UT may access services through the UT Austin Counseling and Mental Health Center. Contact information: (512) 471-3515, Mon.-Fri. 8 am-5 pm, Student Services Building, 5th floor; Crisis line: 512-471-CALL (2255)
This post was contributed by David Zulli, a 2019 Global Ambassador majoring in International Relations and Global Studies and Anthropology. David is studying abroad on the AIFS: Granada affiliate program.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about David’s experience in Spain>>