Real Talk: Coworkers, Study Abroad and Feeling Lost

How does one deal with coworkers who are bullies? They frequently talk down to me and make me feel inferior. It’s gotten to the point where I dread going to work and I don’t know how to handle it anymore.

This is a really unfortunate situation to be in, and a conflicting one for sure. While making money to pay bills is important, your own mental and social well-being is too. If you feel comfortable doing so, I recommend talking to management or even the company’s HR representative about what’s happening. They may simply be unaware of the situation, but ready to help and resolve the bullying once you communicate with them. 

If you’ve already tried talking to management, and don’t feel like anything is being done, the simplest next step is to begin searching for another job. Lots of companies are hiring right now, and due to staffing shortages, they’re typically quite flexible with working out scheduling. Just keep in mind: if you need income for any reason, don’t quit one job until you have another! Not feeling financially stable can just add onto the stress you’re already feeling with your current work situation. 

No one deserves to feel inferior, and I promise that it is possible to enjoy (or at least tolerate) going to work. Your strength and patience to keep showing up is truly impressive.

If you do choose to pursue another job, never forget how competent and capable you are as a human being. That can be really difficult to remember when coming out of a toxic workplace. Just because your coworkers are bullies does not mean that they are right. Remember your strength and resilience, and that there are avenues to improve your work experience, whether it be at your current job or a new one. 

I want to study abroad but the thought makes me so nervous. I’m a very introverted and anxious person and I’m worried I’ll be lonely and overwhelmed, in addition to the fact that I can’t help but think of every possible thing that could go wrong. I’m almost certain I’ll regret it if I don’t go, but how does one find the courage?

Congratulations on being able to study abroad! It’s an opportunity that so many professors and friends are super supportive of, and I’ve heard that it can truly be a life-changing experience. On the other hand, I completely understand where you’re coming from. I’m a big homebody too, and an anxious one at that, so I totally get running through every scenario possible and the nerves of it all.

This isn’t as big of a change as studying abroad, but I recently traveled on my own to visit my family in Virginia this August. I have a huge fear of flying that developed after watching my mom have a massive panic attack during a flight when I was younger, so it was a really big deal to get on a plane, let alone consider flying at all. I had never flown on my own before, and I hadn’t been on a plane in about a decade, so there were a lot of nerves leading up to the situation. 

However, something that got me through (and I think it may help you too), is taking it one moment at a time, and celebrating those moments with yourself. It could be something as simple as getting your bags packed, buying a ticket, or even making it through airport security without any issues (I literally bought myself a model of the plane I was on when I arrived at the Richmond Airport to celebrate making it there without fear). If you like shopping, maybe buy yourself a new outfit to wear while studying abroad, or get yourself a souvenir at each airport you go to in order to celebrate each step in your travels. Plus, our brains love routine (especially when anxiety is involved). The more control we have, the better we feel about something. Breaking up preparation for the trip into steps with rewards is a way for us to ease the anticipation and fear of the situation, because if our brain is prepared for every circumstance possible, it can handle them better. 

With feeling lonely and lost, I’m sure you won’t be the only one in that boat. There will be other students there that will be going through the same adjustments that you are, of living in a different country, experiencing new cultures, and learning how to function in a completely new place. And that’s not a bad thing! There’s a strength in being scared together, because it allows you to bond as you figure out all the aspects of studying abroad. I think you’ll find that meeting friends and creating relationships will come much more naturally than you’ll expect, simply because everyone else is trying something new too. 

Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and if you have the means to do it, I think you should go for it. Lots of planning and creating small moments to celebrate as you prepare can really help in easing any anxiety you may have about studying away from home for a semester. If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out any info sessions offered about studying abroad and contacting the directors of programs you’re interested in as well. The directors may be able to provide you with advice specific to where you want to study, as they’ve worked with several students in the past that have been nervous about it too. I believe that if you really want to do it and can set your mind to it, you’ll have an amazing time that you certainly won’t regret. 

I’m feeling lost. I’m failing several classes and not doing well in the others. I don’t like my major but I don’t know what else to do. I want to follow my creative passions, but I’m scared to go down a less stable and conventional path, and I know my family will be disappointed.  

It sounds like college has been a really difficult and conflicting experience for you, and I know that not enjoying your major can make the entire experience extra stressful and dreadful. I went down a similar path myself, as my first two years at UB were spent in Computer Engineering. It was interesting, but certainly not what I was passionate about. 

When family is involved, it can make following your passions a major struggle, especially when they may disagree with your choices. However, I truly believe that parents strive for their child’s happiness deep down, even if that happiness doesn’t align with what they expected.

In saying that, remember that you’re your own individual, and an adult now. College is an opportunity to explore what you want to do, and what makes you happiest. If that means a less conventional path, but you’re truly happy with your life, then go for that path, no matter what anyone around you says. It may take time for your parents to adjust, but, like I said, they do care for you and want to see you becoming the best person you can be. And if your parents are interested in your grades, I’m sure they’d be excited to see them go back up once you’re enjoying your academic career again. Grades truly are a reflection of your passions in college – my grades were very low when I wasn’t enjoying my major, and went back up when I switched to the major that aligned with my passions. 

My suggestion is this: take some time to reflect on why you’re scared to go down a different path than the one you’re on. Is it because of family members or peers, or societal expectations, like needing to finish college in a certain amount of time? If yes, then consider if you’re able to push past those concerns to follow your creative passions. Would you feel comfortable and at peace with yourself if you made that change? 

If you feel that following your creative passions would benefit and bring you peace in the long run, I’d say to follow them. If you may still feel some apprehension about the idea, maybe delve into your creative side a little more slowly. You could add on a minor, or take some classes that focus on your passions to see how you feel about them. 

In short, I’ll always be a proponent of following your passions over following others’ expectations of you, but I do understand that it’s much easier said than done. It takes a lot of mental and emotional strength to forge your own path, and a lot of time at that. Start by reflecting and see where that takes you. Just dump out all of your thoughts and feelings about the situation, whether it be on paper, in art form, or verbally to yourself or a friend. I think communicating to yourself how you feel and what you could do is a great first step to figuring out this dilemma. You’ll be sure to find a solution once you fully understand the problem, and how you feel about it.