Managing Stress

Finals are right around the corner, so we asked our friend Dr. Minji Yang to share some tips to help us better manage stress during these busy times.

Dr. Minji Yang is a counselor faculty at SJSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). She was an international undergraduate and graduate student from South Korea and is currently an international professional. Minji specializes in working with international students, racial minority students, and students from immigrant families and on issues such as stress, cultural adjustment, identity development, perfectionism, anxiety, depression, and parental neglect and abuse. She is also the Training Coordinator for CAPS’ nationally accredited Health Psychology Doctoral Internship Program.

Here is what she shared with us:

1. What is stress?

Stress is when something happens and your mind/body have a hard time handling the external event. You get ‘stressed out’ in a negative way when your mind/body don’t have enough internal resources to handle the stressful event. There are various types of stressors such as: academic, financial, immigration, work, career, relationship, sociopolitical, pandemic and other-related stressors. It’s been a hard year as we all know and a very challenging year for international students. So please be mindful of different types of stress that you experience and take time to manage them.

2.  What does stress do to you?

Stress may:

    • affect concentration and sleep
    • cause eating difficulties, digestive problems, body tension, and headaches
    • bring on anxiety and depression
    • make you feel overwhelmed
    • spark negative thoughts
    • make you feel un-motivated or have low energy
    • make you more irritable
    • cause relationship difficulties

3. What can I do to manage stress?

    • Measure your stress level (1-10). Notice when your stress level is increasing and identify what is making you stressed out.
    • Think of what activities help you to feel better and make a list of these. Be intentional about what you choose to do.
    • Doing things to relieve stress does not mean that you are being lazy. Actively taking steps to manage your stress is being smart about your health.
    • Get support. Surround yourself with people that you feel comfortable with and cared for by. Make an effort to keep in touch with them even through chat or video calls.
    • Exercise, eat well, and sleep well! The basics are essential especially in times when you are undergoing stress.
    • Do things that soothe you, such as meditation. There are several meditation resources you can find online that will help you learn how to tell your mind to relax:
    • Engage in positive thinking. Negative thoughts weigh more than positive thoughts. Let the negative thoughts occur, but give some room for positive thoughts too! Take time to practice positive thinking and let it sink in.
    • Be kind to yourself. Notice when you are being critical of yourself and try to be compassionate to yourself. It’s been hard enough this year!
    • Take small steps to do the above. Don’t stress yourself out more by adding more work on your plate!

4. Please know that CAPS is available for you!

We are all working remotely but have several workshops, groups, individual mental health counseling, and educational counseling. Check out our website: and follow us on Instagram (@sjsucaps).

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

Thank you for sharing your tips with us, Minji! ISSS also partners with Minji each semester to do a series of De-Stress for Academic Success events. This semester, we’re all virtual. Follow us on Instagram at @SJSUinternational to learn new tips every day during finals week, and check out our web page for more resources.

Student Spotlight: Vicky Vo

Uyen (Vicky) Vo

Undergraduate Student

Major: Design Studies

Home Town: Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam

Vicky is a current SJSU student with a lot going on. Not only is she the co-founder of the non-profit group Students of UXD (User Experience Design), she was also recently identified as a potential candidate for Forbes 30 Under 30 in the area of Art & Style. Vicky was also named the World’s 38th Best Designer in mobile technologies, applications, and software design by Design Classifications (DAC).

What is your dream job?

My dream job is to become a User Experience Designer that brings impacts and makes things accessible to everyone. To reach my goal, I rely heavily on the support of the SJSU Design Community. The friends and the professors at SJSU have been extremely supportive, and thanks to that, I feel motivated and encouraged to push myself hard for success every day. 

What types of activities are you involved in at SJSU or in your community?

Besides school and internships; I have a passion for bringing the Design Community together. In the summer of 2020, I founded ‘Students of UXD’ (, a community of UX Design students worldwide, currently at 500+ members from all over the world. The goal is to help connect with other designers across the globe and provide free access to UX Design related events and workshops. I started Students of UXD after noticing a problem: there are a few student design communities out there; however, most of them focus solidly on topics such as career building and portfolio building. While these communities are certainly helpful, we wanted to create a community that explores deeper issues within design. That said, our events are inclusive of different angles of UX and emphatic of impactful social change issues. 


What is something you want others to know about your hometown, home country, or culture?

One thing that I’m proud to say about my Vietnamese culture is that we’re extremely welcoming. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what your background is, or what language you speak, we treat everyone like guests. When the travel ban is removed, and when we can all go to travel for leisure again. I invite you to come to visit Vietnam and experience all the greatness! 

What do you enjoy most about SJSU?

At SJSU, what I appreciate the most is the diverse community. Personally, I’ve never seen any other school that has such great diversity. I believe in the power of people, and the power of what different backgrounds can bring to the community as a whole. 

Where is your favorite spot on campus and why?

My favorite spot on campus is definitely the student union. Before the COVID lock down, I used to spend my break times between classes at the student union getting food and just hang out with some friends. Definitely a place with many memories! 

What message do you have for our Global Spartan community?

To my Global Spartan community: things are hard now during the pandemic, but remember, this too shall pass. We suddenly moved to remote learning and many of us are still trying to adapt to it including me. But let’s not lose focus! Just take one step at a time, focus on your goals, and soon we will get through all these together.

Special Thanksgiving Tea Time

Written by Haojun Song, Global Leader and Student Assistant at ISSS. Song is the friendly face you’ll see at our Thursday Tea Times. Each week, Song creates a welcoming space for all students to come together. Join him at our next Thursday Tea Time!

Thursday Tea Time is a weekly event that happens every Thursday from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (PT). The event is primarily for students regardless of where they are from, and it’s a great opportunity to meet other students from all over the world.

Global Leaders Yuki & Song prepare for Tea Time

Tea Time gives everyone a chance to make new friends, talk about things they have recently experienced, and share about things that make them happy or frustrates them. We usually have a set theme for each meeting, and it’s usually related to exchanging cultural perspectives or topics on daily life. We hope Tea Time will create bonds that form lifelong friendships. 

For this Thursday (Nov 26th), We have prepared a special Thanksgiving Thursday Tea Time. Even though we may not be able to share a Thanksgiving meal together this year, we can still gather at our virtual Tea Time and come together as a community. Our November 26th Tea Time takes on a special Thanksgiving theme, where we’ll share about our experiences, play games, and give thanks together. Join the Thanksgiving Tea Time through the link here:

Moreover, Thursday Tea Time will continue during winter break! Our purpose for these weekly Thursday gatherings over the break is to connect people and make sure everyone is doing okay while there are no classes in session. The themes for the winter session Thursday Tea Times are still to be determined, but feel free to join our conversation and make more friends.

Thanksgiving Traditions from ISSS

ISSS team members share their favorite Thanksgiving traditions with you.

Lena Meadows, SEVIS Coordinator

  • What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? Being able to spend time with family and eat great food.
  • What are some Thanksgiving traditions in your household? On Thanksgiving we watch football and play board games.
  • What is something that you’re thankful for? Through these tough times, being able to be with family.

Suzanne Pendergrass, Assistant Director of International Student Services

  • What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? Spending time and sharing a meal with family and friends.
  • What are some Thanksgiving traditions in your household? Spending time with the people you love.
  • What is something that you’re thankful for? Family, friends and health.

Kenneth Ing, SEVIS Coordinator

  • What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? Pumpkin flavors everywhere!
  • What are some Thanksgiving traditions in your household? Making chocolate-chip oatmeal muffins to eat Thanksgiving morning.
  • What is something that you’re thankful for? My health

Khim Lok, Office Coordinator

  • What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? I love the gathering of families and friends during this holiday. It’s the beginning of two major celebrations (Thanksgiving & Christmas) and I get really excited about the festivities. One of my favorite things to do is to set the menu, which is typically not turkey. Instead we have a variety of food, potluck style.
  • What are some Thanksgiving traditions in your household? The day after Thanksgiving my family goes out and get our Christmas tree. It’s a tradition we’ve done since the kids were little. Afterward we start playing Christmas music and decorate the house and trees (we usually have 3-4 Christmas trees around the house).
  • What is something that you’re thankful for? I’m thankful for my family; for good health; for my parents; for my siblings; and for my career at SJSU.

Keri Toma, International Programs Manager

  • What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? I love gathering around the table with family and friends, sharing a wonderful meal, and having the house smell so good from all the delicious foods being cooked.
  • What are some Thanksgiving traditions in your household? Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on tv while baking pumpkin pies the morning of Thanksgiving. I also enjoy watching football games throughout the day, but my favorite part is when family and friends come together. Unfortunately, this year will be a quiet Thanksgiving, but hopefully next year will be back to normal.
  • What is something that you’re thankful for? I am fortunate to be able to do what I do; to have family and friends who are caring and supportive of me, no matter what.

Parinaz Zartoshty, Director, International Student & Scholar Services

Parinaz Zartoshty,
Director of ISSS

  • What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? The food and being with family. It is the only time of year I can count on spending time with my siblings, nephews and nieces, my mom and of course my own kids and partner.
  • What are some Thanksgiving traditions in your household? We always take time to reflect about the things for which we are thankful before we start eating the feast. We also leave the food on the table for hours so constant grazing all day.
  • What is something that you’re thankful for?I am thankful for my personal and work families. I also feel blessed to be able to do (as my job) something that I truly love.

Read more Thanksgiving stories and find great fall-inspired recipes by clicking on the links below:

Happy Thanksgiving and reminders about travel and events

On behalf of the entire ISSS team, I would like to extend our best wishes to you for a restful and peaceful Thanksgiving break. We remain hopeful that with time, we will be able to see each and every one of you in person. However in the meantime, it is critical that you continue to stay strong, committed to self-care and continue to persevere. We acknowledge that this has been a challenging semester filled with uncertainties. The ISSS team continues to be here to support you, as you reach the milestone end of a semester.

Overseas Travel During Winter Break: We recognize that many of you miss your families and are considering traveling abroad for the winter break. As always, please be cautious in making that decision, but especially during these extenuating circumstances. Because of the pandemic and continued travel restrictions, your re-entry to the United States is not guaranteed. However, we also understand if you feel compelled to take that risk to be with your family. If that is the case, please make certain to review the information on this page regarding required documents once you seek re-entry into the United States. Please know that we cannot predict how your re-entry may be affected, as the experience at the port of entry is unique to each individual. Finally, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has not yet released their guidance for spring 2021. Once they do, we will be updating our website so please be sure to check back here for more up to date information.

Upcoming Programming/Events: We also want to remind you about our upcoming programming and ways to stay engaged and connected with our community. We are doing a special Thanksgiving-themed Tea Time on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 26) from 3-4pm (PST) via Zoom, and plan on hosting several social events over the winter break. You can find the latest information on our events page, by following us on Instagram @SJSUinternational, or subscribing to our ISSS Views & News blog.

Finally, thank you for being part of our vibrant Global Spartan community. We are grateful for all of you and admire your continued resilience during an incredibly challenging year. Wishing you much hope, peace and joy. Enjoy your Thanksgiving break!