It’s tough being a first time student — there’s often a lot of firsts and plenty of mistakes to make. Self care and minding your health — both physical and mental is really important. Anshika Sharma, our DCU and Indian Ambassador, shares how DCU is leading the way in supporting their students in this area and explain why this should be high on your list when choosing your study abroad destination…

Being a student is difficult. We are at that stage in life where we have to focus on our career and handle ourselves. At a point where grocery shopping is as necessary as a job interview. With this ever-increasing pressure to adult, it is necessary to primarily focus on our health. Ireland’s focus on a students’ health and overall improvement is clearly visible in their colleges. Dublin City University is no different exception and has taken initiatives worth mentioning.

The first thing that struck me about DCU, was the gym on campus (both Glasnevin and St Patrick’s). DCU has its own gym and offers memberships to students for the entire academic year. One can easily squeeze a workout in between classes. The fact that the gym is located on campus, is enough to guilt you into exercising for at least twenty minutes per day. Most importantly, the membership fee is quite cheap (probably the only time I am happy after converting euros into rupees)!

However, being healthy is not just about being physically fit. It is not about eating green vegetables (nobody does that though, right?) and having green tea (the advertisements exaggerate the “good taste”) while doing yoga (namaste!). Shifting countries can be hard. The unfamiliarity can be overwhelming. It is important to have a good, supportive environment. DCU provides just that. The university’s Student Advice Centre provides counselling for students going through mental health problems. Yes. An entire cell devoted to a student’s mental health. Coming from India where mental health issues are usually still not openly discussed, this was a breath of fresh air. The education system back home is a high-pressure container with its lid tightly shut. The support cell does not only provide counselling, it also helps out students who are financially weak. Currently, there are four counsellors working with DCU on the Glasnevin and St Patrick’s campuses. Even the DCU Student’s Union has various societies like the Mental Health Club or the Sober Society working at making their fellow student’s lives easier.

Another fascinating thing is how DCU has no exams for its Masters students. The Indian education system focusses tremendously on the ‘question-answer’ type method. The focus here is on research. Giving exams at this level seems pointless. It gives a feeling of inadequacy. One begins to feel as if their career is stuck. Also, exams do not prepare us for critical analysis. Writing an extensive essay or a thesis in your field is just more appropriate at Masters level than merely reproducing what a textbook said. Doing research has given me the feeling of moving ahead and I feel more positive about my career. I feel like I am finally headed in the right direction.

While choosing a college we tend to focus on the course structure, hostel facilities or the fee. But I feel, with this ever-increasing pressure, we need to focus our health first. The unfamiliarity one faces in a new country can be quite overwhelming. Hence, focusing on factors like physical and mental health is also quite necessary. After all, we cannot be a generation of hunchbacks on the verge of mental breakdowns.