My name is Bethany Bishop. I’m 23, and I’ve been studying at the University of Stirling for nearly four years.
I’m studying Psychology and Sociology, which are subjects I’ve enjoyed since high school. I grew up in Harare, Zimbabwe – which is a small country located in the south of Africa. Prior to starting my degree in Psychology and Sociology, I completed a foundation course with INTO University of Stirling in Science, Computing and Sport.
The COVID-19 pandemic
I’ve struggled with my physical health for many years. I had heart surgery when I was sixteen – and so I knew how to take care of myself in terms of my physical heath.
But I’d never struggled with my mental health till COVID-19 came into the picture.
COVID-19 was a situation that nobody could have predicted. It affected the world population in so many ways – and for me, personally, it took a toll on my mental health.
I was frightened of the consequences I may face if I socialised with people due to the vulnerability of my heart. That’s why I completely isolated myself from friends and family – and ended up being stuck in Scotland for three months till I manged to get home to Zimbabwe.
Even upon arrival back home I felt like an alien, I struggled with my eating as well as facing troubled with anxiety and depression. When the world became ‘normal’ again, I found it extremely overwhelming to integrate back into society. I still struggle today with pushing myself to overcome the challenged face daily.
Discover Student Support Services
During my time in Scotland, I didn’t mention my struggles to anyone. Fortunately, I discovered that there was support available.
The University of Stirling made services available to all students struggling to get back to their homes. The team did everything possible to ensure students had access to trained staff who could help them with challenges they may have faced.
Since my return home, the University has been very accommodating in other ways.
Being an international student comes with its own battles – but being an international student who struggles with mental health comes with even more challenges.
As a result, I ended up applying to complete my university remotely in 2022 by filling in the ‘Agreed Record of University Access Adjustments’ (ARUAA) after my doctors and therapist advised this was the best decision for me.
The University of Stirling accepted my application, and I was then set up with a Mental Health Student Adviser. I now see my Adviser every week via Microsoft Teams meetings to discuss any challenges that I’m facing personally as well as any university work that I’m struggling with – which has been incredibly helpful.
A community of support
I’m still required to do the necessary assignments as well as examinations. But I can now join all of those classes via Teams and am not with the rest of the students on campus.
While this can be difficult due to time differences, the community created by students who are in the same boat is amazing. We all understand each other and help each other succeed in class.
At the end of the day, my university experience has been different and sometimes difficult.
One of the main difficulties I have faced with remote learning is communication with lectures or Faculty heads – and while it can be frustrating sometimes, I know it’s important to remember they have over hundreds of students to look out for.
But overall, I’ve found that remote learning has been the best thing for me.
I’m surrounded by people who support me, and I’m in an environment in which I feel safe and comfortable.
Meanwhile, the support I receive from my Mental Health Student Adviser has helped me in so many ways. Although I only meet with her once a week, having someone to talk to who gives no judgement is so important. We discuss things that I may be struggling with and how I can overcome challenges that I face daily.