‘Unwind With Divya’: A podcast for international students

The podcast ‘Unwind With Divya’ looks at the international student experience in Australia, particularly mental health issues

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When Divya Sharma told her dad a few years ago that she was struggling emotionally and could benefit with a spot of counselling, his advice was to simply put the angst aside and redouble her efforts with schoolwork.

Today, at 25, she’s a mental health advocate and podcaster, creating a safe space for others to unwind.

Her podcast, called ‘Unwind With Divya’, is doing wonders for other South Asian international students like her in Australia. Helping them break the silence that traditionally comes with mental health issues in our societies, it has found itself listed in the international student resources website Insider Guides, as one of the top podcasts for international students in Australia.

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

Unwind With Divya
(Source: Supplied)

So in the episode titled, ‘Mental health, brown parents and accessing therapy’, Sharma details how she eventually sought support from a professional after she moved from India to Australia in 2020, and encourages others to navigate their traumas and unresolved struggles as well – with or without the support of their parents.

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

“Because my journey started with the pandemic hitting the world, it was tricky to socialise and do the usual things an international student would do,” she shares. “I became a student rep at my institution and found ways to be the voice for students. I empowered others to pursue their passions and stood up for what they believed in.”

She started sharing her thoughts and personal experiences on a blog but with time and other commitments, it didn’t sustain. The podcast, when it came, did much better – especially as it “keeps it all real” and talks about “things that we generally overlook within the brown community”.

Unwind With Divya
(Source: Supplied)

“International students do it pretty hard – leaving their comfort zone and their families to build something new,” explains Sharma, who was honoured as the Victorian International Student of the Year 2021-22. “While the excitement of starting a new life is enough for some time, it soon wears off, and then they face the stark reality of the hardship. It is important to reiterate the point of self-care. We often dive into the realm of uni, part-time jobs, volunteering and making a social life in a new country and put our mental health on the back burner.”

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

to travel, accepting compliments/gratitude, the reality of being the elder daughter, what it is 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 as regards mental health pervades throughout South Asia.

“We don’t express our emotions enough; we don’t become vulnerable with each other enough; 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 if her journey is similar to mine. Talking with each other we realised that our journeys have been more similar than we imagined. This gave me the boost that I can reach a wider group of people,” Sharma shares.

Read More: Multicultural mental health line launched in NSW

Prutha Chakraborty
Prutha Chakraborty
Prutha Bhosle Chakraborty is a freelance journalist. With over nine years of experience in different Indian newsrooms, she has worked both as a reporter and a copy editor. She writes on community, health, food and culture. She has widely covered the Indian diaspora, the expat community, embassies and consulates. Prutha is an alumna of the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bengaluru.

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