The pandemic was a very tough time for most students that were away from home especially when the airspace was closed for an indefinite period of time.

Like most students and expats stuck alone during the pandemic, I battled with severe anxiety and depression, especially due to the uncertainty of everything, the outpouring of terrifying news from all parts of the world, sudden and prolonged isolation, and increased academic pressure due to a completely novel mode of study. At one point I even considered dropping out, especially after I felt like I had hit rock bottom.

At that time it never even crossed my mind that I would make it this far. But one thing that kept me going was the support I received from my university. I had written extensively about mental health while working as a journalist but I truly realized the importance of it when the pandemic hit and my mental health began to deteriorate.

I’m truly grateful to Koç University for giving so much importance to mental health, for the existence of KUPTEM, a dedicated mental health department supported by Koç Üniversitesi Hastanesi, and for the KUPTEM staff‘s active advocacy for mental health way before the pandemic even hit. If it wasn’t for KUPTEM and the endless encouragement and support given by Executive Director Esra Özcan and the Dean of Koç University Law school and my thesis advisor Professor Bertil Emrah Oder and the empathy and kindness of all my law school professors, I wouldn’t have survived the pandemic nor would I have received this LLM degree. Their kindness, genuine support, and words of encouragement really helped me survive the darkest year of my life.

If any faculty or staff member of any academic institution is reading this post, I would encourage you to push your institution to establish a dedicated mental health department for your students, faculty, and staff. I can’t emphasize enough on how important it is to have on-campus therapists, to hold mental health awareness sessions, to train your faculty to deal with students suffering from mental health problems, especially the most common ones i.e. depression and anxiety, and to have a mental health action plan so in case another pandemic hits, you are already prepared to help your students.

One conversation of support and encouragement can literally save a student’s life, one extension for an assignment deadline can encourage a student not to give up, one assessment retake can literally push a student to try and give his/her degree another chance.

One act of kindness can truly have a bigger impact than you can ever imagine. So please, try to be kinder and more empathetic towards your students and I can guarantee you that they will survive, push through, and will make you proud.

Maha Shafqat Khan
Graduate School of Social Sciences and Humanities – LLM Alumna