If you’re reading this, it’s okay to feel alone.
When I entered my first year, I was a wide eyed and curious 18-year-old who had traveled over 10,000 miles from my humble dwellings in India to the USA. I had come here to discover more about myself and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. From the start of my time at UVA, people always asked me how I spoke such fluent English and how I had an American accent. I used to repeat my well versed, well practiced answer. I would say “I’m American. I was born here.”
I was so ashamed to be Indian, to have been raised there, to live there, and to have my parents there. I convinced myself I was American simply because I was born here. Although it feels like a different time, it was only two years ago. Looking back, I wish I could remind myself that it is important to be okay with where I was raised and the culture I came from.
I made my first mistake at UVA during my first semester. I was so excited to take 3000 level courses that I loaded myself with 3 of them and assumed I would be fine. Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t. On top of my frustration with my poor grades, I was the only Indian girl in my suite, and it felt as though all my suitemates made a group together and excluded me. I felt incredibly isolated. My second semester, I was excited to start fresh, but my mental health was at an all time low. I had close to no friends and I spent all of my time locked in my dorm room. What made me feel loneliest of all was the fact that everything I was familiar with was on the other side of the world.
My second year started off on a different note. At the beginning of the year, I made many new friends. I was very happy and I spent more time outside of my apartment. However, my grades were once again dipping. To make matters worse, towards the end of the year my friends revealed their true colors, and once again I felt as though I had come back to square one. Like my first year, I had no one.
The night before spring break of that year, I was incredibly upset and I thought that perhaps everyone would be better off without me. I thought that maybe if everything ended, I would be happier and nothing could hurt me. I was sure that I had hit rock bottom, and it seemed like I would never go back up. My parents, even 10,000 miles away, could somehow detect my sorrow. They could see how my depression was once again overwhelming me and how I felt that I was going down the ladder into the deep dark pit that I had created a long time ago.
Being the wonderful and supportive people that they are, they flew down to visit me after spring break. They brought down some of my high school friends who were attending colleges farther up north. They helped me feel more confident and secure. They encouraged me to join more clubs and be honest with myself. Throughout this period of feeling immensely sad and and alone, I forgot to reach out to the people in my life who I knew would be there if I just asked for help. Knowing the immense support that I got from my parents, from my friends in India, and from the Indian community here, I began to feel better. Most importantly, I had never felt more proud to be Indian.
So if you’re reading this, it’s okay to feel alone. But, I hope you take the time to realize that, no matter what, you really aren’t, and it’s important to ask for help. You shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for support, because it just makes you stronger. And believe me, you are stronger than you think.
Aasritha N., University of Virginia ‘20