Year: Third year
With her sights set on veterinary school, Helena Lin intended to major in biology or biochemistry when she first began her studies at Case Western Reserve University.
She gradually realized that becoming a vet was just a childhood dream that originated from her love for her cousin’s miniature schnauzer—and she didn’t know much about what it’s really like to work in the field.
Lin didn’t have to dig deep to find her true passion, though—it was always in front of her.
“I found myself interested in every psychology course, and looking back, I realized that I have had the thought of becoming a counselor several times in the past,” Lin explained. “When I saw my friends struggling with depression symptoms, I really wished that I could have the ability to help them get better, and I still do.”
Now a third-year psychology and biochemistry major, Lin believes her undiagnosed social anxiety kept her from thinking about the possibility of becoming a counselor. Her symptoms became more intense over the years, to the point where she couldn’t make new friends, didn’t ask questions in class, and couldn’t muster up the courage to get involved in clubs—all things she wished she could do.
It wasn’t until her sophomore year at CWRU, when she applied to be an orientation leader, that she realized how much social anxiety was impacting her life.
“I was really nervous and my heart was pounding so fast every time I wanted to speak up during the group interview process,” said Lin, who traveled to the United States from China to attend Case Western Reserve. “I ended up feeling exhausted halfway through the interview and gave up participating and sharing thoughts during some of the portions.”
She wasn’t selected as an orientation leader. At first she was upset and disappointed with herself, but came to realize that blaming herself wouldn’t help her get closer to her goals, and instead, she needed to take steps to overcome her anxiety.
Lin reached out to University Health and Counseling Services to begin her journey, and slowly started to come out of her shell—she started asking the Starbucks barista for a straw when she needed one, and she signed up for English tutoring to improve her language skills.
“With encouragement from professors, my friends and family along the way, I’m now a peer tutor and I got selected to become an orientation leader for this summer!” she said proudly. “I think overcoming my social anxiety really helped me get where I am today. I can’t say that I’ve completely overcome it, but I won’t allow it to control me and keep me from reaching my goals any more.”
Now, she’s compiled a laundry list of achievements at Case Western Reserve—and beyond. She volunteered at the Animal Protection League for a while, in addition to completing community service through the Civic Engagement Scholars program. She works as a peer tutor, tutoring students in general chemistry, physiological psychology and biochemistry courses.
Lin has also participated in diversity and inclusion events, and volunteered for the Send Silence Packing event, which aims to end the silence that surrounds mental health while advancing suicide prevention. Lin is also the outreach chair of the Chinese Student Association and a member of Klover, a student K-pop dance group.
When she completes her undergraduate studies, Lin hopes to attend graduate school to prepare to become a counselor or clinical psychologist to help those with mental health conditions.
“Though there are many uncertainties in the future, I [hope] I can go back to [work in] China, where mental health awareness and knowledge still needs improvement,” she noted.