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:

Thanksgiving in the United States

Written by Lin Tian, who is an international student from Qingdao, China. Recipes in this blog post were created by Dominic Sumner. Both Lin and Dominic are students in the Nutrition program at SJSU. This is the final installment in a series of 3 Thanksgiving blogs by students in the Nutrition and Food Science program, where they will share Thanksgiving traditions and healthy recipes. ISSS is excited to collaborate with Professor Jamie Kubota and her students on this project for International Education Week.

Thanksgiving in the United-States 

Let’s Start with Some Background

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United-States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November since President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it a holiday amid the Civil War in 1863. This national holiday honors the pilgrims that arrived on the Mayflower (ship) at Cape Cod. 

The Plymouth colony was a group of English Puritans who wanted to break away from the Church of England. However, long before Europeans arrived, the area was inhabited by many Native Americans – including the Wampanoag people. But a few years before the Mayflower landed in New England, an epidemic had wiped out much of the native population. When the pilgrims reached Cape Cod, they were incredibly unprepared for the winter. In a state of desperation, the pilgrims robbed corn from native Americans’ graves and storehouses. But even then, half of the colony died within their first year. In 1621, a formal agreement was made between the settlers and the native people to protect their tribes. When the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag sat down together to celebrate a good harvest in Massachusetts, it was recognized as the first Thanksgiving. In 1789, George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation; after that, Thanksgiving was celebrated nationally. 

Thanksgiving that we know today happened thanks to the 19th-century writer Sarah Josepha Hale. She was America’s first female magazine editor and author of the famous nursery rhyme: Mary Had a Little Lamb. During the Civil War, Hale was convinced that a national Thanksgiving day would awaken American hearts to the love of home and country and thankfulness to God and peace. She wrote a letter to the governors and even President Abraham Lincoln suggesting the proclamation of one Thanksgiving Day in the United States, which carried forward the history of Thanksgiving. In 1870, Thanksgiving as a national holiday was signed into law. 

Today, Thanksgiving is more about family. However, the way we serve our turkey and our pumpkin may have changed; our entertainment evolved over the years from archery and displays of arms to football and parades. Thanksgiving has become a welcome day of rest to spend with loved ones in recognition and appreciation for all the blessings for which we are thankful.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

US Thanksgiving traditions

The celebration of Thanksgiving has its religious significance in American households. It originated to give thanks to God. On Thanksgiving Day, families get together to celebrate this holiday and share their gratitude. Communities may also hold food drives and free dinners to celebrate. 

Also, in the 1920s, the Detroit Lions came up with the idea of a Thanksgiving Day football game to boost dwindling attendance. In 1924, Macy’s department store started their Thanksgiving Day Parade, which heads down the streets of New York and ends at the store. In some major cities like New York City and St. Louis, Thanksgiving Day Parades are still happening as part of the tradition. 

In 1941, Congress finally made Thanksgiving Day a legal holiday when they moved the holiday up one week, so the official day of Thanksgiving would be the fourth Thursday in November.

What’s on the table?

The symbolic foods of Thanksgiving are turkey, potato (usually mashed), squash, corn, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Turkey, as a uniquely American bird, and although likely not on the tables of the original colonists, turkey has developed into a symbol of the holiday.  Over 46 million turkeys are consumed every year, on average of 16 lbs per turkey! Whether it’s roasted, grilled, or deep-fried, it should be placed at the center of the table. 

Meanwhile, roast some sweet potatoes and green beans, serve with butter and brown sugar and make it a full meal along with the turkey. Homemade cranberry sauce on the table is a must! The ratio of sugar, water, and fresh cranberry is 1:1:5. Boiled together for 10 minutes over medium-high heat, with a pinch of salt, and served cold. 

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

Being Thankful

Thanksgiving is all about thankfulness. Show your gratitude to people around you; their support is the reason for who we are today. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to send out thank you cards to those who are there when we need them. Also, write a note to yourself mentioning things you are grateful for this year. It’s nice to go over this once in a while.


Written by Lin Tian, Nutrition student at San Jose State University. Born and raised in Qingdao, China

Recipes for your Thanksgiving Leftovers

One of the great things about the bounty of Thanksgiving is that we have leftovers from a delicious Thanksgiving meal! Dominic Sumner, a student in WHISK SJSU shares his creative ideas for your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Leftover Mashed Potato Pizza

This recipe combines leftover mashed potatoes and new ingredients to make a pizza with an American twist. We call for a premade crust here – but feel free to substitute homemade pizza dough – increasing cooking time to 15-20 minutes. Mashed potatoes are often served at a traditional Thanksgiving feast and if leftovers remain they will go great with this dish. The mashed potatoes act like tomato sauce.

Photo by Ivan Torres on Unsplash


  • ½ cup bacon, cut into small pieces (~6 slices)
  • 1 12-inch Boboli premade pizza crust
  • 3 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (like cheddar)
  • Salt & pepper& dried oregano to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 425-450°F.
  2. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until crispy. Drain on a paper towel and allow to cool.
  3. With the premade crust, spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the surface. Add the cooked bacon, and sprinkle the cheese over the top.
  4. Season with salt, pepper and oregano.
  5. Place in the oven for 6-10 minutes or until the crust is golden. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Cut pizza and enjoy!

Yields: About 4 servings (1/4 pizza)

Leftover Turkey Fried Rice

Leftover Turkey Fried Rice is a dish that combines leftover turkey meat from a traditional Thanksgiving meal with fried rice.  Brown or white rice can be used, however, brown rice has a slightly different texture.

Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash


  • 2 cups white rice, uncooked
  • ½ pound leftover turkey meat (about 1 cup)
  • ½ cup green onions (chopped)
  • 1 cup carrots (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1 cup leftover green beans (cut)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper


  1. Cook rice in a rice cooker or pot with 4 cups water.
  2. In a large wok or skillet heat oil and add leftover turkey. Add the chopped green onions, carrots and garlic, cooking for 6-8 minutes over medium heat.
  3. Add beaten egg and cut green beans and stir periodically.
  4. In a separate bowl mix soy sauce, oil, and red pepper.
  5. Add cooked rice into the wok and sprinkle the mixture of soy sauce over the rice. Cook for another 3-5 minutes or until heated through. And enjoy.

Yields:  4 servings

Written by Dominic Sumner, Nutrition student at SJSU