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Emotional Resilience: An essential skill in the context of immigrants and international students.

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

So you decide to move to another country to work or study, and yeah, that is one of the most exciting experiences somebody in an underdeveloped country can have, and the efforts for making that come true may be super extensive depending on their financial situation. After months or even years getting your trip planned you may think you have everything you need, but one thing is true and I can tell you: You are about to visit a place that a new you is going to develop. Don’t worry, that’s not meant to scare you, but alert you that one of the most important things that people never plan for is how much they understand about their own minds. As an immigrant myself I can tell you that whatever I thought I knew about myself was about to change. Now let me tell you the scary (but happy) bit of it: Changes are hard, but hey, you have been changing since you were born and you’re still alive, and you know why? That’s your emotional resilience being built!


Emotional resilience is the ability to adapt to situations where you may face more stress. Building emotional resilience means you become more and more capable of “rolling with the punches” and therefore adapt to adversity. Ok Leo, but how does that relate to living in another country? Life punches us all the time right? That’s not different when you are living, working or studying in another country. But the difference is that being away and distant from your family and friends is already going to demand a lot of resilience for you to reach your goals and fulfil your dreams. Remember: I’ve been there and this is why I’m here to support you with at least understanding and preparing for that scenario, and the best way of doing that is by investing in your community.


The studies cited in this article reinforce that inclusion and participation in society are key factors for promoting mental health and boost resilience. These are some key factors for you to consider if you are an immigrant or living temporarily in another country:


Cultural Context Different cultures think and express themselves differently. This is probably one of the main reasons why ethnicities tend to group together, it’s easier to relate to people that think like you and also know how you think, right? It is important to have close relationships and make friends, but don’t forget that cultural diversity also gives you the chance to learn a different way of thinking and facing life.


Language barriers


Different cultures most of the time come with different languages, and at the end they are all using English as a common language. You don’t have to be an expert in the language, and trust me, I’ve seen people who couldn’t speak a proper sentence in English grow and develop themselves so well to the point of building enough confidence and language knowledge that now they are great English speakers. Learning a language takes time, and I can confirm that as a previous English teacher, but it’s not impossible. As long as you are aware of how much you already know in addition to your studies and involvement with the language, it’s a matter of time for you to build up the confidence.


Visa status


This is one of the main stressors in the immigration context. Planning your pathway, whether you’re thinking about temporary studies or work, or becoming a permanent resident, having a tangible plan will help you cope with the adversities and build up that resilience we are talking about. Studies show that immigrants may face depression and more mental health problems compared to those in a non-immigration setting, and the reason is uncertainty. That’s why having a clear picture and a plan of what the following months, or years of your life are going to be like will put you in the right setting for dealing with the stress when it comes to your visa or residency status.


Community support


Whether you need friends, leisure time, professional connections and networking, the people around you are the best ones to support you with that. You’ll certainly start building an extension of your family by calling those new friends as “family”, and trust me, they are an important part, if not the most important, in all this immigration context. The great thing about networking in Australia is that it works! Finding your people will provide you with connections that will directly link you with opportunities in all senses - leisure, job opportunities, cultural integration, sense of belonging and language learning. You will find a lot of meetups where you can join and be involved with people and subjects of your interest.


How can I identify if my resilience and mental health are in the right place?


If you feel that something is wrong, or even just bothering you, the best way is always seeing your GP or your family doctor. They will be able to assess your condition and send you to a specialist if necessary. Common mental illnesses include:


  • Depression (feeling sad or not interested in things you usually love).

  • Anxiety (feeling constantly worried, racing heartbeat).

  • Psychosis (confused about what is real or unreal).

  • Schizophrenia (delusional, confused speech).


How can I prepare for living in a different country?


The key is to be conscious and understand that we are learning and developing all the time, and it wouldn’t be different in this context. As we mentioned, being away from your loved ones might impact you more, but seeking for new friends, relationships, people that can support you, and that you can support back, will be important for you to feel you belong and are part of that country, and most importantly, part of a community!


I wish you all the best with planning your trip, and if there is anything we can do to help you prepare or support you during your stay in Australia, feel free to contact us. We are here for our community!


We're all about helping people and our community at LOVE2WORK, and you can be part of this movement by sharing this article with a friend!


Leonardo Falasca

Immigrant, Husband, English Teacher, Business Developer.



References


Mental Health Association NSW. https://wayahead.org.au/


Ziaian, T., de Anstiss, H., Antoniou, G., Baghurst, P., & Sawyer, M. (2012). Resilience and its association with depression, emotional and behavioural problems, and mental health service utilisation among refugee adolescents living in South Australia. International Journal of Population Research, 2012.


Ponce, A. N., & Rowe, M. (2018). Citizenship and community mental health care. American Journal of Community Psychology, 61(1-2), 22-31.


Gatt, J. M., Alexander, R., Emond, A., Foster, K., Hadfield, K., Mason-Jones, A., ... & Wu, Q. (2020). Trauma, resilience, and mental health in migrant and non-migrant youth: an international cross-sectional study across six countries. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 997.


Cervantes, R. C., Gattamorta, K. A., & Berger-Cardoso, J. (2019). Examining difference in immigration stress, acculturation stress and mental health outcomes in six Hispanic/Latino nativity and regional groups. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 21(1), 14-20.


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