Mental Health Counseling
Traveling abroad can be an exciting time for you as students and this may even be your first experience outside of your home country. This amazing experience can also come with its own unique challenges and place a strain on your physical or mental health. How to prioritize your well-being whilst studying abroad and adjusting to a new culture? It takes time to acclimate to surroundings, so have patience with yourself.
Even though you are away from home, your emotional and well-being needs can still be met. Here at FUBiS you
have access to psychological support with Shani St. Louis from MindHyrst Mental Services.
Shani is a Psychological Counselor & Mental Health Nurse from the UK and studied Psychotherapy at The University of Oxford. She has worked in mental health since 2002 and has experience with individuals, hospitals, and universities worldwide. Shani has provided psychological support for international students here in Berlin for the last 5 years.
An Interview with Shani St. Louis
FUBiS (F): Please say a few words to introduce yourself.
Shani (S): Hi, my name is Shani St. Louis, and I’m a psychological counselor and psychiatric nurse from the UK. I live in Berlin, and I’ve lived here for eight years. I have two decades of experience in mental health, particularly with young people and with students, and in the last five years I’ve specialized in study abroad students.
F: What is it that you do at FUBiS and FU-BEST?
S: For FUBiS and FU-BEST I started out this summer as their psychological counsellor. For FUBiS, I had two terms where I supported the students by giving them a wellbeing presentation at their orientation - giving them an understanding from a mental health perspective of how this cross-cultural experience may impact their mental health.
After the orientation, I provided weekly teatime sessions, which was a group space where students could come and reflect and share with each other on their experience and gain peer support. We talked about anything from managing emotions to time management, and managing the intensity of a course with also balancing really wanting to embrace and immerse yourself in the city. I also provided individual 30-minute sessions for students. That was their confidential space to bring whatever they needed to at that point.
F: Why do you think mental health support in a study abroad situation is so important?
S: I think it is really important because the experience the students gain can be really enriching and really amazing, and I think the stories that we hear is that actually it is life-changing for students to study abroad. But when we think about it, this is one of the moments in their life when what is normal for them - what is their kind of really concrete foundation - they’re moving themselves out of that at a very sensitive age.
We know also that young people are a demographic that do struggle with their mental health. But not only that, they are also coming into great uncertainty depending on how similar or different this country is to their own or to their home experience, and this, if not managed very well, can increase stress and anxiety and bring about poor mental health. And that’s why I think it is so important to have a support system and an understanding of mental health for study abroad students.