Managing Mental Health

By: PJay

Editor’s note: In our office, we view mental health as a strong component of overall confidence and success in your future career path. Use PJay’s experience, described below, as inspiration for taking care of your own mental health. 

As the end of the semester was approaching I found myself losing a lot of motivation and constantly feeling stressed. It seemed as if a lot of my acquaintances were also feeling the same way as me when we were discussing mental illness in the Asian community. Whether you are Asian or not, I’m sure you’ve experienced the feeling of being considered “crazy”, “lazy”, or “ungrateful” when you mentioned the feeling of having depression or anxiety. It’s a big problem I want to address it in this post. Being a person who is Hmong American and has been told by doctors that I have anxiety, I want you to know that you are definitely not those stereotypes mentioned above.

Managing mental health

First I would like to share my experience of learning how I came to be aware of my anxiety. I grew up in a very supportive family but mental illness was never addressed as something that needed to be taken care of. I think this actually goes for a lot of Asian households. My sophomore year was the time when my anxiety got really bad. My panic attacks would make my breathing irregular and I would lose control of my body. There would be so much tingling and numbness from my head to toes that I would end up falling over or passing out. For some reason at the time, I thought I had asthma and after several panic attacks, I finally decided to schedule a doctor’s appointment. When meeting with my primary doctor in Saint Paul, we went in depth about my symptoms. It turned out I didn’t have asthma, and she concluded I had anxiety. I was so shocked at the time and I thought the doctor was wrong because I was unaware of mental illness. I was in such disbelief I decided to schedule another appointment at UMD’s Health Services instead. But guess what? The doctor there told me the exact same thing. At first, I was obviously upset because growing up, all I knew was that anxiety meant you were crazy and I didn’t want people to think I was CRAZY, so I only told very close friends about my situation. Thankfully, all of them were very understanding.

Moving on, I knew I couldn’t run away from it because it was something uncontrollable in my mind, therefore the only thing to do was to make it better. I began to learn more about how to take care of myself through online research and being around people who understood and experienced the same things as me. In addition, I attended APAA’s Mental Illness in the Asian Community lead by Julie Kim from Health Services, which gave me more insight about how I wasn’t the only who felt “crazy” with my mental illness. It also made me realize there are a lot of people who needed my guidance and my support. This is how I stopped shying away from accepting the fact I do have anxiety and it is OK.

I want anyone who has, or maybe doesn’t have, depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues to know they should never treat themselves or others differently. Be aware that it can be a sensitive topic and don’t assume it’s “not real”. Someone may look normal on the outside but inside they could be experiencing something psychologically and these are considered non-visible disorders. Next time you hear about someone experiencing this, be kind and offer help. UMD’s Health Services offers free counseling for all register UMD students for various reasons. There are also very supportive groups on campus such as the Disability Resource Center and Access for All. Your mental health plays a bigger role in your life than you make think. Remember to take care of yourself.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Faye Cornish

How to Rock at Being in the Minority (Emerging Majority)

By: PJay

I’m sure at some point in our life we have all dealt with the feeling of being a minority. I am not just talking about the color of our skin, but being a minority can simply exist in the lifestyle we personally choose to pursue. Some examples are choosing to be a vegetarian/vegan, our gender and sexual orientation, or even our political views. I’m sure you can stir up a whole list of all the different ways you can be considered a minority.

Now for some of us, we might feel good or special to be a part of the minority, or as one of my best friends would call it, “the emerging majority.” And for others, it can be just a little scary. Whichever feeling you are getting though, I am hoping you can make use out of the tips I have listed below. These are just based off of my personal experiences at school that I believe can help guide you to be the embracive individual you were meant to be at work, school, or even in your friend group.

How to rock at being in the minority

Reach out!
There is always more to learn about something than you would think you already knew about. Join a club or an organization that has the same beliefs, values, and experiences as you. Choose one that has welcoming members, and one you believe will teach and help you grow the most. Having a great support system is seriously one of the best tools that is going to assist you to surpass obstacles and people who degrade you.

Keep in mind: time will mend everything together.
I cannot emphasize this one enough! Time is really all we need to grow more mature and become more accepting. Whether that is accepting your own imperfections or the way others see you. Time plays a role in both! Because the more we are exposed to something over time, the more it changes our viewpoints.

Accept the fact that not everyone is going to agree with you.
This is one of the most challenging things to do, but honestly, it is fine to have disagreements. We are raised in different environments, thus creating different experiences for us to behave a certain way. And if you want someone to become more knowledgeable about your circumstances, you also have to keep an open mind towards them. Relationships are based on balance and respect.

Teach, tell, and not expect.
Humans are not robots or mind readers, so you can’t expect someone to know or be aware of something without a bit of guidance. You are now the teacher. Just simply tell what’s on your mind or in your heart. It will be frustrating at first, but like I said before, allow them to take the time they need to process where you stand as a minority. It is hard to tell someone the experiences you are going through, but it’s truly the effort they put in to get to know you that counts.

Believe in yourself.
This sounds so cliche, but it’s true! No one is willing to push you to work harder than yourself. In addition, when you accept yourself and portray confidence, you become a standing stone in the eye of others. They won’t even try to push you down anymore because they know they can’t. Do what makes you happy because it is your life.

Differences are truly the things that make us unique and give us the ability to teach others about ourselves. Don’t avoid the things that make you a minority. These features about you are truly what make you special, just like the things we want the most in life are the rarest. I hope you found some wisdom in these tips to use in your everyday life. Take care and good luck!

Read PJay’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon

Advice for my Younger Self

By: PJay

Greetings everyone! I am so excited to be back to share a few things that I have learned about college and wished an upperclassman could have told me while I was in my younger years. I’m hoping my advice and experiences can guide you to know that it is alright to feel confused right now and that things will get better with time.   

One of the biggest things that I can remember struggling with as a freshman, and even to this day, was maintaining good grades. You may not have received the grade you wanted on an assignment, a test, or in an overall class, but that is fine. College was the first time I had to experience what it felt like to retake a class. It was EMBARRASSING, so I didn’t want to talk about it to anyone. When I learned how to accept the fact that I needed to retake a class, it only challenged me to work harder, learn, and love the class more. Understanding the topics better the second time around will influence you to be more eager to learn which will help you achieve the grade you want.  

Advice to my younger self

I know it’s difficult to hear your friends or classmates say that they barely even studied and still got an A on an exam, whereas you put in so much effort to study the night before but still received an unsatisfactory grade. However, sometimes you have to remember to not compare yourself to them because you are unique and everyone has different learning techniques. Someone can say they only studied for an hour the night before the exam, but that may also mean they studied for an hour every night for a week or the whole semester leading up to the day of the exam. You have to discover what works and doesn’t work for you. Don’t doubt your abilities and your intelligence because you are still learning. No one is expecting you to just know something or get everything right the first time. Remember to not let a grade define who you are. You are a person, not a number or a letter.  

Another thing that I remembered struggling with the most was making friends. Friends can actually help you get through a lot in college. I used to feel hopeless in making friends because when I introduced who I was or who my people were, many of the students that I met have never heard of the Hmong people before. They just assumed I was “Chinese” or “Korean”, so I was placed in an awkward situation when explaining who my people were. Because of those experiences, I shied away from going out to join clubs or even attend classes sometimes. I didn’t know what to do but eventually, I joined an organization that I identified the most with, the Asian Pacific American Association (APAA). By being more active on campus, I learned more than I thought I already knew about people of color, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community. If you want to learn more about the world than just what you’re taught in school, join a club. Not only do you learn more about others, but you also learn more about yourself.  It’s the easiest way to find friends who will accept you.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that it is okay if you cannot decide on your major. I have seen so many of my friends who wanted to be doctors their freshman year but now want to pursue other professions. Take classes that you have never taken before or even take classes that you may think you are not interested in. If you want me to be honest, there have been times where I enjoyed the classes outside of my major more than my required classes. For example, I have never taken physics prior to college and I was so intimidated to take it. I pushed it off until this year and discovered that it has been one of my favorite classes this semester.  

Sometimes we just all need a little bit of time for things to get better. You are not alone, you are smart, and you can get through all of this. If you are performing actions that come from your heart and passions, you will become the person you want to be in college.

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon

Getting Involved and Why

By: Tony

One of the most popular pieces of advice you will receive during college is to “get involved”. Of course, there are tons of ways you can get involved, but many are probably not for you. The key to figuring out how to get involved is knowing what you want to get out of it. Do you want to serve others, fight for causes you believe in, or just want to have some fun? Different organizations on campus serve different purposes. I will give examples from my personal experience to demonstrate the wide variety of types of involvement.

Identity-Focused Involvement
My first instance of getting involved on campus was when I joined the Latinx/Chicanx Student Association and began to immerse myself in that community. I come from a very diverse hometown, and coming to Duluth was a bit of a culture shock. That, combined with my heavy involvement with my high school’s Latinx-focused student group, pushed me to become involved with LCSA. Soon after joining, I was elected to the Executive Board as the Freshman Representative, and I was allowed to play a major part in the goings-on of the organization. After a few weeks, the other members of LCSA weren’t just my friends, they were my family away from home. They made me feel like I belonged at UMD when the rest of the campus bogged me down with microaggressions and doubt. Even as a senior, my love for LCSA has never wavered, and I have done everything in my power to make sure that everyone feels as welcome and supported as I have. My involvement with LCSA is deeply rooted in my sense of identity as a Latino, and my experiences with it have made me more secure with that aspect of my identity.

Getting involved on-campus

Campus-Related Involvement
During my freshman year, I became highly-involved with the Multicultural Center. I didn’t get along very well with my roommates, so I would stay in the MC as long as I possibly could every night. As spring semester rolled around, I felt like I knew the MC like the back of my hand, but I wanted to get involved with the rest of campus as well. I was fond of my experience during Welcome Week, so I applied to be RockStar for Welcome Week, and luckily I got in. I suppose I did pretty well because they let me come back two more times. Being a RockStar is incredibly demanding. It requires being flexible, creative, and energetic for five days straight. When I say energetic, I mean it. I’m usually fairly quiet and reserved, but during Welcome Week, I am constantly running around, dancing, and yelling. As draining as it may be, it is also incredibly rewarding. I loved being the freshmen’s first point of contact with the campus. I wanted to ensure that they were as ready for college as they could possibly be. I remember how confusing and intimidating freshman year was, and I wanted to pay forward the great Welcome Week that I had when I was in their position. I wanted to have an impact on the whole campus by ensuring that the student body was well-equipped with the resources they need as soon as possible.

Service-Focused Involvement
Finally, I decided to get involved with campus through direct service to the student body. Which brings me to why I am writing this blog in the first place, as an extension of my position as a Peer Educator. In my position, my job is to provide services and access to resources that my peers need to excel academically and professionally. I want to see everyone I work with land their dream internship or job, and I want to do everything I can to make that dream a reality. All three examples of involvement I have mentioned have degrees of service associated with them, but I feel like my Peer Educator position allows me to directly serve the UMD community on an almost-daily basis.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Danilo Batista

The Impact of Microaggressions

By: Tony

It’s just a fact of life that you are going to come into contact with people who are different than you. Whether it be at school or in the workplace, you will inevitably end up talking to someone whose background isn’t the same as yours. Naturally, you will want to get to know each other, which is great. However, you may run the risk of committing a microaggression.

The impact of microaggressions

What is a Microaggression?
A microaggression can be described as covert or unintentional discrimination. They are words and actions that marginalize certain groups of people, even if it is unintentional. The main issue with microaggressions is that even though they may be minor offenses, they can add up quickly and seriously damage one’s self-image and make them feel as though they do not belong. Often, microaggressions manifest themselves in seemingly innocent ways whose impacts are not apparent unless their underlying implications are thought about.

Examples of Microaggressions and Implications

  • “Where are you from?” “The Twin Cities” “No, where are you REALLY from?”
    • The implication is that the second person is being identified as a foreigner and not as the group they choose to be identified with. If you are wondering about someone’s ethnic or racial identity, there are better ways of going about that.
  • “Can I touch your hair?”
    • The implication is that the body of the person who’s being asked is exotic and a target of curiosity, which is degrading. I’m sure the awkwardness of the situation outweighs the satisfaction of your curiosity.
  • “Oh, you’re Latino?! Do you know (random person)?!”
    • Not all (Latinx/Black/Asian/Native American/Queer/Muslim/etc.) people know each other. Assuming that they do gives the implication that their group is small and lacks diversity.
  • (When speaking to a person of color) “Say something in (foreign language)”
    • This implies that all people of color know a second language, which is not true. Worse, it implies that POCs are trained animals that will respond to your whims.
  • (When speaking to a POC) “You are so articulate”.
    • This implies that POCs are uneducated and unable to make intelligent conversation.
  • Blatantly using the wrong pronoun
    • Yes, mistakes happen, but if you know someone’s preferred pronouns, please use them. Mis-pronouning someone implies that you do not accept them for who they are, or at best, you do not care to listen to them.
  • Catcalling
    • The implication is that you see women as sex objects that only exist more male enjoyment.
  • “That’s so gay!”
    • The implication is that being gay is a negative characteristic.

How to Avoid Microaggressions
In my opinion, the keys to avoiding microaggressions are recognition and reflection. You must recognize when your words or actions, intentional or not, have a negative effect on others. You must also reflect on how you can improve your behavior and become more inclusive. As a general rule, if you are curious about a certain aspect of someone’s life, such as their racial identity or any conditions they may have, get to know them. If they wish to tell you about themselves, they can do so on their own terms. It may also be helpful to ask yourself why you want to know about that aspect. Is it to get to know the person better? Or, is it based on sheer curiosity?

Ultimately, modifying behavior is a personal act that you must figure out yourself, but I think self-awareness is a good starting point. With this information, you can do your part to make your classroom or workspace more inclusive and welcoming to all people.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Michal Grosicki

Navigating through College as a First-Generation Student

By: David

As a first-generation student, the struggles and barriers of navigating through college can often be difficult and strenuous. Scholarships, finances, campus resources, college courses, communication with faculty & staff, you name it. So what defines a first-generation college student? Well, according to a research article published by Maietta back in November, she states, “The two most widely used definitions of FG college students are 1) those students whose parents matriculated, but never graduated with a bachelor’s degree and 2) those students whose parents never persisted past a high school diploma.” (Maietta, 2016). My parents came to the U.S. as immigrants after the Vietnam War never achieved a college degree, therefore I, myself, am a first-generation college student. In today’s post, I’ll be highlighting my experience as a first-generation student (FGS) and how I have navigated through college. With that being said, let’s get started!

david-first-gen

Capitalizing on Campus Resources & Opportunities  

The most significant method for me in navigating through college as an FGS was to capitalize on opportunities and resources provided by departments, student organizations, and offices around campus. More than often, I find that students take these opportunities and resources for granted and make zero effort in leveraging these amazing resources to benefit their college career. From my experience in working in various departments and offices around campus, I have come to realize one thing and that is that the folks who work and operate in a campus setting are all dedicated to helping students. In other words, USE YOUR CAMPUS RESOURCES! Check out the amazing opportunities and resources through academic and campus life departments.

Though this is a case where it is easier said than done to actually capitalize on these opportunities and resources, I would like to chime in on my thoughts and feelings as an FGS. Coming into college, I was very hesitant in using and seeking out campus resources and opportunities. One reason was that I simply felt bad for just using the resources available. Personally, I hate the feeling and concept of using someone to benefit myself and that’s exactly how it felt like at first when using these campus resources. To me, it didn’t feel right setting up meetings and appointments to talk over the things that benefitted me only. My turning point with this mentality was when I first got involved with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) in my second semester of my first year. Through a series of activities and meetings with the ODI staff and student organizations, I was able to gain this trust and understanding that staff and faculty alike are here to serve students because they love doing that exactly. Once I understood that, my experiences as an FGS totally flipped 180 degrees for the better.

Connecting with Staff & Faculty

In addition to leveraging campus resources and opportunities, another asset that truly helped me was connecting with the staff and faculty on campus. Setting up to meet with career counselors, attending office hours, asking career related questions, self-disclosing about troubles as an under-representative minority, the list goes on. I cannot recall how many times where I’ve sought out support and guidance from staff and faculty in situations of dilemma. As the first one to attend college, I don’t have many personal connections to rely on in terms of understanding the college life. Thankfully, I’m extremely fortunate to have found a support system that was able to help me navigate through college when I felt stuck and alone in regards to college life. An important thing to keep in mind as an FGS though is that my positive results required me to take action and make the first step in asking staff and faculty members for support. I realize that it was often hard for my faculty members or staff to realize that I was struggling, and therefore required me to put my pride down and ask for help. I think this is common as well in FGS as this sense of pride is something that is often hard to overcome in a college setting. In closing, staff and faculty members are the pillars of support & generators of knowledge and serve as role models & mentors for ALL students and are folks who students seek for motivation and inspiration. From personal to professional development, the staff and faculty members of campus are the keepers of wisdom that guide students to success through moral and academic support.

Conclusion

With that being said, my experiences as an FGS are not limited and exclusive to just campus resources/opportunities and connecting to staff and faculty. Stick around for next time as I’ll continue forth in sharing more personal experiences as a first-generation student. In the next post, one key concept will focus on the importance of social groups and how important it is to have them. Until next time, I urge you to start thinking about your social groups, how you came to establish them, and what role you and your peers serve within the group. As always, stay gold friends!

Of Possible Interest:
Maietta, H. (2016). Unfamiliar Territory: Meeting the Career Development Needs of
First-Generation College Students. National Association of Colleges and Employers Journal.

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Embracing My Identity: I am Generation A

By: David

We are all aware of Generation X and Generation Y, but never has there been such a concept recognized as Generation A until now. As this is my final blog post of the academic year, I would like to wrap up my “Embracing My Self-Identity” series with this last one in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. After returning from the  MAASU Spring Conference at the U of M several weeks ago, I feel rejuvenated and as if I have returned as a new and improved person. After four years of being a student here at UMD, three years of being an active student leader in the Multicultural Center, and three MAASU Spring Conferences (held annually), I can finally, for once, walk around the halls and sit in my classrooms/workplace with complete confidence and truly embrace who I am as an individual, specifically as an Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA). To understand this struggle, let’s take a look at some numbers. The APIA student population (doesn’t include international students) accounts for only 4% of the entire campus community, but continues to be the largest student of color of population on campus. This comes to show how small the student of color population is on UMD’s campus. All data can be found on the Office of Institutional Research webpage. With all that being said, here is the concrete definition of what Generation A is, what it means to be Generation A, and why it is so important to embrace such a movement.  

Generation A is one where we take ownership of who we are. It is a generation where we create our own narratives, tell our own stories, and design spaces for us and by us. We are the future generation of APIA leadership.”

MAASU Poster

Identity Crisis

Before jumping into my reflection and insight, I want to briefly talk about a concept that is especially popular in the field of Psychology which is the state of identity crisis. According to Merriam-Webster, identity crisis is “a feeling of unhappiness and confusion caused by not being sure about what type of person you really are or what the true purpose of your life is.” I mention this because my assumption is that almost every, if not all, college students will experience this at one point or another during their college career. In my two previous posts, this was especially true as I struggled and fell into a state of confusion to figure out how my personal identity, specifically my racial identity, plays a part in the campus community and society as a whole.

MAASU Reflection

This year I was fortunate enough to attend the MAASU conference with 33 of my peers which turned out to be a remarkable experience for many of us. Though I have attended two MAASU Spring Conferences prior to this year, it isn’t until now that I am able to completely embrace my identity with full confidence.  It is true that I have always embraced my identity, but I feel as if there was always a missing piece to the puzzle, or that it wasn’t real or complete. What I took out from this year’s conference then and how it impacted me so tremendously was that it made me realize how important and precious my APIA identity really is.  As I walked around the Twin Cities campus during the conference, I was able to witness a sense of unity among my APIA peers from different parts of the region. With every workshop related to APIA topics and issues, I finally feel as if my identity and history is valid and that there is deep value in learning about the people, traditions, and culture of the APIA community. Growing up as a student of color, never did I learn anything pertaining to Asian American history or about the accomplishments that APIA leaders were able to achieve and because of this it forced me to deny a part of my identity as I had to assimilate to the majority. With MAASU, it was one full weekend that was dedicated to this piece that I, along with many others kept locked away for so long. For once, there is this sense of recognition and acknowledgement that we matter and that our existence matters.

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UMD Asian Pacific American Association & Hmong Living in Unity & Balance students at the MAASU 2016 Spring Conference.

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UMD Asian Pacific American Association & Hmong Living in Unity & Balance students at the MAASU 2016 Banquet.

Moving Forward

As I have finally achieved or acquired this state of enlightenment and self-actualization, I hope to help others in doing so as well in the future. In addition, I want to become a learner and a teacher, one who is able to learn more about this identity and teach it to those who never had a chance to learn about it. With this, my hope is to do what the conference has done for me, which is to create a sense of validity and importance in the APIA identity and history. Furthermore, I hope to break away from the stereotypes that are placed upon me because of the color of my skin or my physical features. In the end, my ultimate goal before I leave UMD is to have my peers and friends to achieve and acquire this state of enlightenment and self-actualization and to fully embrace their identity with a whole sense of they really are. Even if it is just one, I will be content with my efforts. With that being said, I wish you all well for the rest of finals week and Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!  

Of Possible Interest:

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