Your Stories – Meet Vaish

Name: Vaish

Degree: Bachelor of Social Science (Honours)

Have you always wanted to study social science?

I started studying nutrition as I wanted to be a dietician. I watched my dad who has diabetes struggle to find a dietician that understood an Indian diet. When I started the degree, I quickly realised it really wasn’t for me. I was very unhappy. I considered other options and a lecturer in my public health course sat down with me and asked, “what do you want from life?”. I realised I wanted to help people and make a difference within the community. So, I changed into social sciences, and I felt like a whole new person.

Vaish soaking up the sunshine on Callaghan campus

Where do you want to take this degree?

I am passionate about health because of my own experiences with endometriosis and PCOS. At the time, I was using western medicine to treat these conditions and it didn’t work. Instead, I was diagnosed with a liver tumour caused by the medicine I was taking. I switched to Indian homeopathic ayurvedic techniques which we’ve used culturally for generations, and I saw immense improvement in my health and wellbeing. I realised I wanted to do research on this because there is not enough being done.

I aimed to be an academic and decided I’d take up an Honours research project. It falls under medical sociology and anthropology which is a niche stream, and my actual thesis will be autoethnography of my own health journey and experiences. I’m comfortable now with being vulnerable and I truly believe you must share your stories. There is strength in being vulnerable, in saying hey I had this really bad experience, but this is what I learnt from it, and this is where I am now.

I was invited by Vaish (right) to her home to celebrate Navrati, an annual Hindu festival devoted to the goddess Durga

What challenges have you faced?

I became overwhelmed with work and study, then Covid happened and I developed severe mental health issues. I left my job, took a step back from my studies and really focused on my thesis. I started seeing a counsellor; coming from an Indian background, counsellors and mental health is stigmatised. My parents and closest friends are the only ones that know I suffer from anxiety and depression. It was more important for me to focus on getting better than making other people understand. After 5 months of regular counselling sessions, I’m a different person. I wouldn’t have been able to sit here with you 5 months ago.

What is your ultimate life goal?

This experience made me realise I want to get into a Master of Social Work, working with those who struggle with mental health, particularly people of colour and from south Asian communities who don’t have access to culturally competent counselling. My counsellor is Australian, and he is good, I can connect with him, but I have so many friends that don’t feel comfortable seeing a counsellor because of language barriers and cultural misconceptions.

Vaish reading a textbook on case management studies

Do you have any words of advice for other students?

Everyone is going through something. As a caseworker, I want to find the best in everyone and every situation. There is still light and hope in every situation. It takes strength to accept that you’re not okay.

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