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Who's Who - Kristina Lesnjak, International Student Project Officer

The "Who's Who" series focuses on introducing you to key members of the International Student Mental Health project. Today we're talking to Kristina Lesnjak, International Student Project Officer.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hello everyone!

My name is Kristina Lesnjak. I’m originally from a small coastal town in Croatia. Still, I moved to England nearly five years ago to pursue my undergraduate degree in French and International Relations at the University of Leicester. After three years of living in Leicester and spending one year abroad in France as part of my course, I ended up pursuing a master’s degree in International Relations at the University of Nottingham this year.

When we’re not in a middle of a global pandemic, I like to travel, hang out with my friends, and, when I visit home (usually in summer), swim with my dog, a mischievous but delightful chocolate lab named Baloo (yes, after the Jungle Book). I also enjoy learning, doing research and reading, which is partially why I chose to do a master’s. I like watching Netflix and trying out new recipes, walks in nature, and listening to music.

I’m the type of person who a) has no problems expressing how they feel and b) is very curious about the rationale behind human behaviour and how to address it. So, I take care of my mental health by talking to my friends and family about what I am going through and telling them that I need a little extra support and conversation.

When I sense that I keep going in circles about what’s bothering me, I turn to research. I like to read articles or books, watch videos on YouTube, documentaries on Netflix or even read tweets and Instagram posts made by counsellors and other mental health experts on why people feel a certain way and how to work on themselves to feel better. For me, gaining a deeper understanding of why I feel a certain way helps me identify the root of the problem to start eradicating it.

I do also take care of my mental well-being in what might be the biggest cliché of them all – yoga and meditation. But hear me out – the key is consistency (it might be a key for a lot of things in life, but especially this). Meditation helps me quieten my mind when things get too much, and yoga helps me stay grounded and balanced.

What do you do?

I have joined the International Student Mental Health project as the International Student Project Officer this semester as a work placement. I have the opportunity to focus on creating my own contribution to the project. I will be writing blog posts on mental health on this website, with my main perspective being international students.

Why did you get involved in the project?

I believe that the mental health of a student can make or break their experience at University.

Unfortunately, the importance of good mental health has been often overlooked in the higher education sector and generally in our society.

I’m happy that now we are approaching times where there is less and less stigma associated with mental health and that people are talking about it more freely and seeking help more often, with this project being one example of that.

I wanted to contribute to the lessening of the stigma around mental health. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do so by giving my perspective and personal advice on improving international students' mental health.

Since I have the lived experience of studying and living abroad, I believe my perspective can positively impact this project's outcome because it will help the higher education sector identify the challenges international students are faced with when studying at University. I hope it will also help international students feel less alone and more encouraged to seek help when they need it.

Tell us about your header photo.

It is one of my favourite pictures I have ever taken. This was during my year abroad in France. My best friend and I have taken a day trip to a gorgeous little village named Annecy, which rests on a lake and overlooks the Alps. It was a surreal and magical place, to say the least!


Working in Partnership

The project is nation-wide. We're making a real effort to engage with everyone interested in international student mental health, including universities, mental health services, students unions, sector bodies, charities and organisations such a private student accommodation.

The project is led by the University of Nottingham, in partnership with the University of Nottingham Students' Union, University of Leeds, Leeds University Union, SOAS, SOAS Students' Union, Student Minds and Campuslife Ltd.

Project funded as part of the Office for Students Mental Health Challenge Competition.

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