Thomas Chengxi Zou is a native of China who is now a graduate student in journalism at the University of Washington. With all the challenges facing international students, he wondered about the state of their mental health.
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Thomas Chengxi Zou is a native of China who is now a graduate student in journalism at the University of Washington. With all the challenges facing international students, he wondered about the state of their mental health.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Deborah Wang

What are the mental health concerns for international students?

Heading off to college can be a stressful time. Students have to learn to live on their own, navigate a new environment, be on top of their academics, and make a brand new set of friends.

Now imagine doing all of those things in an alien culture, and not in your native language.


There are 8,670 international students at the University of Washington's three campuses. They come from more than 100 different countries.

Thomas Chengxi Zou is one of them. He’s from China, and he is now a graduate student in journalism at the UW.

When he arrived in the U.S. last year, he was surprised by how isolating it felt.

“Mostly, I felt stress and anxiety from different levels,” Zou said.

For Zou, it was a combination of loneliness, peer pressure, struggles with the language and worries about finding an internship or a job before his visa runs out. Since arriving, he said he's experienced a lot of ups and downs.

That led Zou to wonder: What's the mental health status of international students? And how common are his struggles?

We get the answer from Natacha Foo Kune, the director of the UW's Counseling Center and a former international student herself.

Natasha Foo Kune is the director of counseling at the University of Washington Seattle campus.
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Natasha Foo Kune is the director of counseling at the University of Washington Seattle campus.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Deborah Wang

Mental health resources:

Asian Counseling and Referral Service

(206) 695-7600

Offers services in many languages, including: Japanese, Korean, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Vietnamese, Nepali, Laotian, Thai, Mien, Cambodian, and Tagalog.

Consejo Counseling and Referral Service

206-461-4880

Has provided behavioral health services to the Latino community in Washington state for four decades.

Crisis text line: 741741

Comprehensive list of mental health and wellness resources for University of Washington students only: Husky Health and Well-Being

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