This Hey It Gets Better story comes from Ellie Smith, who is 22 and runs a feminist lifestyle blog from her parent’s house in an unremarkable town near Manchester. She is a 2020 BA English and History with Study Abroad graduate from the University of York (well done if you managed that tongue twister), and she is currently seeking my first full-time job in a digital or social media marketing role. Ellie got a starred first in her degree which is amazing and relevant to the story she tells as you will see below she struggled during her degree. She managed to not only get through it but achieved an amazing result. I hope you enjoy Ellie’s story.
Study abroad expectations vs reality
I really disliked studying abroad. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with how much I disliked it, and how much it negatively affected me. I was sold a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience, where I would meet new best friends and go to fantastic new places. In reality, the weather was too awful to go outside for most of the year (thank you, Scandinavian rain), yet my living space was infested with mould and silverfish. There were a variety of other more serious reasons why neither me nor my study abroad destination could live up to my expectations, but they’re not important right now. I was desperately unhappy whilst living in Denmark. Albeit, I had to spend the year there. It was a third of my degree, and my study abroad grades became 40% of my overall classification. I couldn’t just return home. I didn’t want to either. Ultimately, I learned more from having a negative experience than I would have from a positive experience. Silver linings, eh?
Retrospectively, I’m surprised at my own resilience. I kept going because I never truly considered that there were any other options: the only thing we can do is move forward, hour by hour, and day by day. Time doesn’t stop, and neither do we. If you can get through the minute, you can get through fifty-nine more, and you’ll eventually get through the day.
I tried to adopt more positive practices too – I took up journaling, I cycled more regularly, and I constantly played positive music. I arranged to meet others as much as I could. I tried to be more sociable. Most importantly, I sought the help that I needed from those who were qualified to give it me.
In the end, everything worked out okay. I won an award for the grades I achieved whilst in Denmark. I’ve graduated, I’ve moved on. Now, I face the next challenge: seeking employment in the coronavirus-induced recession. I know I’ll get through it though and I know you’ll get through your next challenge too – we’ve already survived all our worst days, as the saying goes.
What helped me get through tough times
I used to think (hope) that doctors – and health professionals generally – were lying when they said that exercise and healthy eating helps you feel better. I thought it was an inside joke, something that the NHS or maybe even MI5 concocted, like carrots helping you see in the dark. Surely, exercise can’t influence your emotions that much? Surely, it’s a lengthy course of medication and therapy that helps you crawl back to your healthy mindset? I doubted the power of fruit. I doubted the power of vegetables. It was a mistake.
Our behaviour and our emotions are interconnected. Treating your body right will help you feel better. It won’t be immediately (you wouldn’t expect the flu to be cured after one sweaty, twenty-minute cycle to the shop), and it won’t be easy (exercise is hard when you’re not used to it), but it will be worth it. Find something that you enjoy – personally, I hate running. I find it heinously boring. My knees find it unnecessarily painful. I do, however, love going to the gym. I love cross-trainers. I love going for long walks in the countryside. Exercising and eating healthy don’t have to be a challenge – find something that you enjoy so that they’re something to look forward to rather than a chore. You can do this.
It’s also important to reorient your perspective. What’s happening right now in your life is temporary – even if the circumstances which are affecting you are long-term, your attitude towards them can change and become more positive. Challenge your negative thoughts: your slump won’t last forever. Again, you can do this. Be kind to yourself; you’ve already come so far.