‘Unwind With Divya’: a podcast for international students

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When Divya Sharma told her father a few years ago that she was struggling emotionally and could benefit from some guidance, his advice was to simply put the fear aside and redouble her efforts with schoolwork.

Now, at 25, she is a mental health advocate and podcaster, creating a safe space for others to relax.

Her podcast, called ‘Unwind With Divya’, is doing wonders for other South Asian international students like her in Australia. To help them break the silence traditionally associated with mental health issues in our societies, it has been listed as one of the best podcasts for international students in Australia by international website Insider Guides for Students.

Relatable and friendly, her podcast ‘Unwind With Divya’ not only delves into topics usually considered taboo within the desi community, but also offers solutions.

Relax with Divya
(Source: supplied)

So in the episode titled ‘Mental Health, Brown Parents and Access to Therapy’, Sharma describes how she ultimately sought support from a professional after moving from India to Australia in 2020, and encourages others to also deal with their traumas and to deal with unresolved issues – with or without the support of their parents.

Originally from Lucknow, Divya (short for Divyangana) came to Melbourne to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing. But this trip to Australia was not limited to just academics; it was here that she became an advocate for mental health and initiated impactful actions to raise awareness within the international student community.

“Because my journey started when the pandemic hit the world, it was difficult to socialize and do the usual things an international student would do,” she says. “I became a student representative at my institution and found ways to be the voice for students. I have empowered others to pursue their passions and stand up for what they believed in.”

She started sharing her thoughts and personal experiences on a blog, but with time and other commitments this didn’t last. When the podcast came out, he did much better — mainly because he “keeps everything real” and talks about “things that we generally overlook within the brown community.”

Relax with Divya
(Source: supplied)

“International students are doing it quite hard, leaving their comfort zone and their families to build something new,” explains Sharma, who was honored as the 2021-2022 Victorian International Student of the Year. “While the excitement of starting a new life is enough for a while, it quickly wears off, and then they are faced with the grim reality of hardship. It is important to reiterate the point of self-care. We often dive into the realms of university, part-time jobs, volunteering and building a social life in a new country, leaving our mental health on the back burner.”

On ‘Unwind With Divya’, the topics Sharma discusses range from taking a gap year to preparing for competitive exams, but not

traveling, accepting compliments/gratitude, the reality of being the eldest daughter, what it’s like to be a people pleaser and more.

Amanda Abeysinghe and Divya Sharma (source: supplied)

A Sri Lankan guest on the podcast, Amanda Abeysinghe, opened Sharma’s eyes to the fact that the culture of silence and stigma in mental health pervades all of South Asia.

“We don’t express our emotions enough; we don’t become vulnerable enough with each other; we don’t say ‘I love you’ enough,” she notes. “These are gestures that are common in other cultures.

“Amanda, a lawyer in Melbourne, grew up in Sri Lanka and I wanted to explore whether her journey was similar to mine. As we talked, we realized that our journeys were more similar than we expected. This gave me the boost that I can reach a broader group of people,” says Sharma.

Read more: Multicultural mental health line launched in NSW

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