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Advice and Announcements for VSU Students

Love Yourself. I Know…Crazy, Right?

by Rebecca Smith on March 31, 2014 in Being Positive, Healthy Relationships, Respect, Single LIfe

Why is it that everyone in the world seems so obsessed with love, but no one seems to know how to love themselves?  I know some people think they are the center of the universe.  However, that sounds more to me like self-absorbed, not self-love.  I’m talking about enjoying being in your own company.love

I hear a lot of people say they don’t like to be alone.  Is this because they are extroverted and feel energized around people?  Sometimes.  A lot of the times I notice people are trying to distract themselves from their negative thoughts.  Even introverted people who like to be alone will distract themselves in their alone time.   These distractions come in the form of friends, the internet, food, alcohol, marijuana, shopping, tv and even homework.  Anything, instead of having to deal with their emotions.  Why is that?  I think it is because if people stay busy they don’t have to admit they don’t really like themselves.

When I ask students in my office to tell me what they like about themselves, I usually get a long pause.  Those words don’t come easy for most.  However, if I ask the same students what they don’t like, I better have a pen and paper ready because I’m going to have a list of many things in a few seconds.

Some people have never had a positive role model in their life.  They’ve never had someone say positive things about them or even seen anyone have a positive attitude in general.  This person will not only have to learn how to create positive thoughts, they will most likely have to work hard at erasing all the negative voices in their head.  Some people are lucky and have had people around to support and love them.  However, they are still their own worst enemy.  They still have to learn to find their own positive voice inside.

Let me tell ya, a little kindness can go a long way.  It has to start small.  You aren’t going to wake up one day and find that you are suddenly full of love for yourself.  The first way to start is to think of little things you enjoy or like about yourself.  They can be about the way you look, feel, or things you do.  You can even appreciate things that no one else does.  Not everyone sees things the same way.  For example, my dad believes to be successful you have to make a lot of money.  I realized I started to feel successful when I saw how I could help people.  Even though I don’t make a lot of money doing it.   Others don’t have to agree or believe the same way for you to believe it about yourself.

Another example is this:  A girl walks into a grocery store to buy ice cream.  As she grabs the Ben & Jerry’s off the shelf, a girl on her left thinks, “I wish I could be that skinny and eat ice cream.”  Another girl on her right thinks, “No wonder she is so fat.  She eats ice cream.”  So what should this girl believe about herself?  That she is fat or skinny?  It all depends on who she asks I guess.  That is why it is important to develop your own beliefs because not everyone is going to have the same perspective.   And that is okay.  Beliefs aren’t wrong or right.  However, they can be more positive or more negative.  Many people tend to believe more negative things about themselves.  In order to change, you have to sometimes shove out what you’ve heard from others and develop your own ideas.

This isn’t easy, but it is also not impossible.  Beliefs are very powerful and you can change them.  I’ve also found that no one can reassure you but yourself.  Some people think they need to be in a relationship to feel good about themselves.  They feel if someone else loves them then it will be easier to love themselves.  However, I’ve found your significant other can tell you all day long that you’re smart and fun, but if you believe you’re stupid and boring you will bounce those compliments right off your negative shield.  It is good if there are positive people around you, but it doesn’t always make a difference unless you choose to embrace those positive beliefs yourself.

This means you can be single and still learn to love yourself for who you are.  It is actually better to learn to love yourself before you get into a relationship.  Then you won’t be as vulnerable to people who tell you what you want to hear just to get something from you.  You will be confident enough to see through other people’s manipulation and strong enough to stand up for yourself.  You will also be more willing to wait for a truly great person to come along.

P.S.  Just because you love yourself doesn’t mean you can’t set goals and improve things about yourself.  But it does mean that you shouldn’t try to improve only because you are comparing yourself to others.  Once you can let go of the comparing game, you can spend that time focusing on your own beliefs to reach the goals that make you happy, not someone else.

P.S.S.  Just because you love yourself also doesn’t mean you can’t spend just as much time and energy to love others.  You don’t have to stop doing one to improve upon the other.  There is room for yourself and others in your heart.

How to Help Your International Student Friend

by Rebecca Smith on March 26, 2014 in Anxiety, Friendship, International Students, Stress
This is a repost from the blog, Quarter Life Crisis.                         

As the immigration reforms debate is going on, many international students struggle to plan their life.  As a graduate international student, now an international “alien” defined by the U.S. Government, I am now working in a company that is sponsoring my H1B visa. What does it mean?  It means I can work for this company for up to 6 years (renewal every 3 years) and maybe… just maybe they ‘ll agree to sponsor my H1B visa green card.  Again, what does it mean?

Let me tell you a story, the life and the emotional roller coaster of an international student, maybe you will feel worse for your friend who is an international student, or maybe you can decide to help and do something or at least, try not to unintentionally picking on the same old wound that we, international students, all try to cover up with pretty American made products like bandages, shoes, chocolate molten cakes,  etc.

12 years ago I came to this wonderful country on a J1 visa.  What is a J1 visa?  Great question.  It is an “exchange visitor visa.”  Which means, you come to this country as an exchange student based on an exchange program between 2 countries (your country and the other country).  The exchange program typically works this way, the schools between 2 countries work together, they send students between the schools back and forth during the countries for cultural experiences.  No, this is not a mail order bride program, though, if you really think about it, it might be a good cover up for such a program.

Most of the time, the exchange program is embedded in the school fee you pay, but if you are from a third world country trying to do an “exchange” program to the US, the fee is extremely crazy.  My family didn’t have that much money, but for my future, my mother sold everything we had to send me to the US and she sent me to this strange and foreign country when I was 14.  14, alone in a place half way around the world from my home, living in strangers’ home and knowing noone, my first year in the US was much better than it sounded.

 

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I landed in Chicago O’Hare airport, and was met by my “host parents” assigned by this exchange program.  Did I mention, I could not find the place in any maps (this was before Google became popular) before I left my country?  But, oh well, ”it’s the US, no one would do anything bad,” I thought.   So, why not get on the plane, meet someone you have never met and live in a town you could not find on any map?  My ”host parents” met me with an upside down name board with my full legal name carefully written.  That was the first time in my entire life I have seen my name written in full in such a mega scale, it was a bit unsettling.

 

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I lived with my host parents for 1 year in a smallest town, I met wonderful people, made many mistakes and gained 20 pounds within the first 2 months snacking on onion-sour cream potato chips dipped in sour cream.  I drove my first tractor, mowed my first lawn, ate my first McDonald’s hamburger and fries, and many more.  I lived on $500 for that entire year. I got lost to class the first day.  All the girls and boys looked the same to me with their blonde hair and blue eyes and pale skin. Oh, also, I broke my first bone ice skating and had my first dance.

I fell asleep crying for the first 3 months, and my mother spent at least $200 every month paying for phone cards.  Every conversation was filled with silent cries and tears.  Until one day, my uncle picked up the phone, and he said to me “if you keep crying, it does not help anyone.  Stop crying and be strong.”  That was the end of my weeping and mourning period.

1 year goes by, and the fear started to creep.  I wanted to go home.  However, a J1 visa required the student to not come back to the US for 2 years after the exchange year (why? I have no idea).  In addition, the year of exchange in the US would not count toward your education back in your home country.  In another word, I would have to retake my freshman year in high school.  I refused to do that, but I missed my family.  My mother kept promising me, “you will come home…. SOON….,” and I kept that word “Soon” in my heart for the next 7 years until I decided to go home all by myself.

After the J1, you will never be able to get another J1.  It’s a once in a life time visa type.  Thus, in order for me to stay in the US, I have to change my visa status from J1 to F1 (independent international student) and have to change school ( by law, you cannot attend the same school with different visa type….why? Again, I have no idea… maybe non-citizen aliens like us might get too attached.  So the journey began to change my visa status from a J1-F1 and to look for another stranger to take me in to live with them with no conditions….. and yet, God is on my side again.

According to the immigration rules, I could not change my visa unless I left the US and either go home or go to a third party country and reapply for the visa.  Which meant, there was a big chance my visa would get rejected and I would never be able to enter the US.  So, after my mother found a friend of a friend of a friend who knew a friend who lived close to a friend in Denver to take me in as their host daughter and helped me with my visa, I finally got my visa status changed from J1-F1.

Then college time came, not many schools offer scholarships for international students, not to mention, international students never get in-state tuition benefit, so you always pay the highest cost.  I found a school with full scholarships and everything I wanted in a state where -20F is a normal thing (not Alaska, thank God), and consider this, I am from a country where 100F is a normal thing.

When you attend a college or university as an international student, you cannot work for more than 20 hours a week, and you cannot work off campus unless it’s an approved CPT (CURRICULAR PRACTICAL TRAINING VS OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING).  You can work part time as long as you are in school with your CPT which will have to follow your curriculum in school (your major), approved by the school department, signed by your international student advisor and approved by the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services).

In your years in school, you are also allowed 1 full year of full time CPT, and then after graduation, you are also allowed 1 full year of full time OPT (OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING), the time frame is longer for you if you are in the STEM program (science fields).  The purpose of this OPT is to find an employer who loves you so much that he/she will sponsor your H1B visa (I don’t even want to go over the requirement for the H1B visa approval) and eventually sponsor your green card.

This sounds great, but, consider this, one of the condition for the green card H1B visa is that the employer has to prove that there is no or very limited candidates in the US that can do the job and you can… out of all the people in the US, you are THE ONE!  I believe, this condition comes out of the fear of international students who have to study extremely hard to be top of their schools with the highest grades and the most extra curricular activities would take away American jobs. This topic calls for another long and complicated blog!

Long story short, your international student friend who you see everyday or once in a while worries about all these letters everyday, J, H, O, C, T, P, U, S, C, I, S, 1, B, D, E, P, O, R, T, E, D…. and many more… so don’t mind them when they freak out in front of the alphabet place mat.  When they go to bed at night, they have to worry if tomorrow they will be back and continue another day or they will have to pack and start a new life in another country or go back home.  Every meal is like the last meal, and every party is the best party.  Every relationship is extremely precious, and every mistake is a grave chance of being deported. When they plan their future, they have to have plan A: staying in the US and getting green card or plan B: staying in the US for 3-6 years and getting married, or plan C: leave it all and just restart.  And the easiest choice always is: go back to school and get a PHD.

 

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So be nice to your international student friend, feed them the best American dish (90% of the time, they already tried all the food you considered “exotic” yet never touched a hot dog before), invite them over for Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, etc. because those holidays are the most terrifyingly lonely time for them.  Talk to your friends who might know people who are executives (only the executives can be so unrealistic enough to make the decision of going through the pain of hiring 1 non-citizen individual).  Pack their clothes and give them a giant party when they can’t find a job, not because they are not qualified, but because no one even want to try to look at their resume due to the inherit invisible flash on their forehead saying : sponsorship.  They will have to go home.

 

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Losing Yourself in a Relationship

by Rebecca Smith on March 24, 2014 in Healthy Relationships, Respect

It can be easy to lose yourself in a relationship.  In the beginning you can be so excited by the possibility of love that you can lose what makes you really you.  Not that you change completely, but sometimes people find afterwards that they gave “too much” of themselves just to be in a relationship.

Trust me, this isn’t an easy balance.  You don’t want to be too selfish and demanding in a relationship.  However, you don’t want to shove all your wants and desires away to get someone to like you.  Again, this can be hard because most people have a tendency to give in and overlook things when they are first dating.  This could give your potential boyfriend or girlfriend the wrong idea about you and your personality.  I’ve heard a lot of people say their partner changed after a few months in the relationship.  What tends to happen is that it’s easy to give in a couple of times, especially in the beginning.  For example, it may not be too much of a hardship to watch a couple of football games when you start dating someone.  However, it is whole other thing when your partner wants to watch 6 or more hours of football every Sunday with a few hours on Saturday and Monday night thrown in too.  Your boyfriend or girlfriend could be confused by the fact that you all of a sudden hate football or don’t want to watch 5 games in a weekend with them.  It isn’t that you “changed”, it is just that you are becoming more yourself in the relationship.

This can happen in all sorts of ways in a relationship.  Most people don’t always speak up about what they like or don’t like right away because they don’t want to risk being rejected.  Some people even falsely believe that they will be able to make a permanent change in one of their habits or interests.  This can be true on occasion.  Some people do broaden their horizons and find they like or are interested in something they’ve never really tried before.  However, most of the time, you know in the back of your mind you don’t like something but continue to tolerate it for a certain period of time in the beginning of a relationship.

That is why it is called the honeymoon period.  Everyone is more accommodating in the beginning.  Just be aware that you don’t sacrifice too much of yourself in the beginning that it becomes really  hard to assert yourself later.  You want to be as honest as you can be about yourself.  It is better to take the risk of being rejected, then to be loved for someone you’re not.   If a person really can’t accept something about you, isn’t it better to figure that out sooner than later?  You don’t have to pretend you are into something just please someone else or get them to like you.  Everyone has different habits and interests.  It isn’t always easy to find someone who gets you.  It is also okay that not everyone does get you.  It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.  Not all people are meant to be compatible.  It is okay to make small changes or to stretch yourself in a relationship.  You just don’t have to stretch so far that you end up breaking.  Know your limits and try to be upfront about it even within the first few dates.

If you have a fear of rejection or being alone, you can work on it.  Fear is the main reason people try to change or give things up to make a relationship work.  Try to work on facing those fears.  Then you will feel stronger and more confident.  Then hopefully you find a really great relationship instead of settling for whatever comes your way.  It isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible.  If you feel fear is holding you back, I suggest you talk to someone who can help you through it.  Try to figure out and understand why you do what you do when it comes to relationships so you can make positive changes if necessary.  We are all works in progress.  Don’t be too hard on yourself if this post describes you.  I’m sure it describes a good percentage of the population.  There is hope for change and you can find a way to be more balanced in your current or future relationships.

First, figure out who you are and respect yourself.  Second, learn how to communicate that to someone else.  Third, learn to recognize what you can and can’t handle in a relationship with someone else.  Last, be confident in your choice even if that means possibly being single for a little while.

Believe In Yourself

by Rebecca Smith on March 19, 2014 in Being Positive, Friendship, Stress

As you reach the middle of the semester, you can be so stressed that it can be hard to focus on the positive side of life.  If you’ve had a crazy semester, you’re not alone.  Here are some inspirational quotes to get you through the end of the semester!  (all images via weheartit)

Introduction to the VSU Counseling Center

by Rebecca Smith on March 19, 2014 in Counseling Staff

Welcome to the VSU Counseling Center Blog.  This blog is intended to share insights and helpful advice from the counselors in the Counseling Center.

The Counseling Center includes a Director, two Psychologists, three Counselors, an Alcohol and Other Drug Coordinator and a Health Educator:

Dr. Tricia Hale, Licensed Mental Health Counselor- Director of the Counseling Center

Professional interests include: Substance Abuse and Dependence, Collegiate Substance Abuse Recovery, Women’s Issues, Grief and Loss, Couples and Relationship Counseling, Depression, Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Supervision and Training and Career Development

Dr. Marcie Wiseman, Licensed Psychologist

Professional interests include: Multicultural Counseling and Diversity Issues (examining dynamics of privilege and oppression), Identity development and intersections of identity, Relationship Concerns, LGBTQ issues, Disordered Eating and Body Image Concerns, Non-traditional and First-generation College Students

Ms. Gwen Williams, Licensed Professional Counselor

Professional interests include: Non-traditional and First-Generation College Students, Multicultural Counseling, Relationship Concerns, Stress and Academic Concerns

Ms. Rebecca Smith, Licensed Professional Counselor

Professional interests include: Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Social Anxiety, Multicultural and Diversity Issues, Relationship Issues and Dating Violence, LGBT Questions and Concerns, Trauma (PTSD), Depression, Addiction Issues, Eating Disorders and Body Image Concerns, Stress and Academic Concerns

Ms. Katherine Freeman, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Professional Interests include: Anxiety, Depression, Relationship Concerns and Setting Boundaries, and Substance Abuse Issues

Dr. Ryan Couillou, Psychologist

Professional interests include: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Stress Management, Anxiety, Depression, Students with Disabilities, Personality Assessment and Identity development

Mr. Mark Williams, Coordinator of Alcohol and Other Drug Education

The goal of AOD is to provide accurate, up-to-date information in the areas of prevention, education, and referral, allowing student involvement in the process through peer education and substance-free social programming. The services are available to students, faculty and staff.

Ms. Holly Wright, Health Educator

The goal of Health Promotions is to provide students with educational information on health and wellness issues so that they can make informed and healthy lifestyle decisions.  The primary focus is to reach the student organizations, groups, and residence halls on campus by providing presentations on various health related topics, as well as provide individual consults for students. The issues that the office focuses on are: Body Image, HIV/AIDS, Eating Disorders, STDs, Sexual Assault Prevention, Stress Management, Sexual Health, & Healthy Eating Habits.

For more information on each staff member, please visit our website.