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Dysmorphia

WSU Student poignantly discusses the trauma of body dysmorphia and the thoughts, feelings and experiences it involves. ...

TW: Body-shaming, mental illness, body dysmorphia

I have a fear of mirrors. 

Let me rephrase that – 

I have a fear of my 

reflection on the mirror. 

I hate the face that 

looks back when I look 

into the mirror.

 

It does not look like me – it feels grotesque, absurd. The human eye is so acutely trained to fixate on impurities and imperfections. It has an 

insatiable thirst for providing an infinite supply of ammunition for all your insecurities. The blemishes, the uneven tones, the acne – it disgusts me.

 

Don’t get me started on the full body mirrors. The fit of clothes on me makes me nauseous. I am either overweight, disproportionately sized, too short or too untoned. All I never am is me. It befuddles me why my brain would betray me and make me believe I look like something I am not and show me something I don’t want to be. 

 

Its crude humour is lost on me. Why make me guzzle down food from stress eating if you cannot stand to see yourself overweight? Why grow out and gift me beautiful curls only to rip them away from me before I even hit adulthood? To be betrayed by one’s body is an indescribably painful infidelity. Actually, scratch that last line. The pain is benign compared to the betrayal from those you love most. The third sentence that escaped my mother’s mouth as I met her after a “year and a half” consisted of criticisms about my weight, my skin and the texture of my hair. An uncle made the very astute observation that I had developed a deeper tan. But the vernacular to express that is to quip that my complexion had got dirtier, which was somehow a euphemism to avoid more serious colourist remarks. It’s not his fault.

 

It’s the society that moulded him. The one that segments newborns into “beautiful” or “dark-skinned” because it believes that their mutual exclusivity is a matter of fact. The one which led a child to scrub his skin till he bled in order to wash away the “dirt”, which made his skin murky. The one which beat me down into not looking at a mirror for the last 2 years.  

 

I felt guilty that the only bit of rebellion I put up against this society was so minuscule and private. I rebelled each time I had that extra plate of food because it brought joy to my foodie soul. I rebelled each time I went to the gym because I like the runner’s high and not because my mother said I look unpresentable in my current form. I rebelled each time I ignored any fairness products and wore bright colours, which they said would not suit my complexion. I rebelled when I looked into the mirror for the first time in 2 years. Someday, I will rebel by accepting the face and the body that looks back at me.

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Sebastian Florian Guzman: “We shouldn’t have to waste in our economy, that’s what got me inspired behind this university”

Sebastian is a WSU student studying a Bachelor of Economics. At 23 years old, he is inspired to educate the university student body on the dangers of ...

Sebastian is a WSU student studying a Bachelor of Economics. At 23 years old, he is inspired to educate the university student body on the dangers of microplastics, and the several projects behind further investigating it’s effect on the environment. Interviewed by former W’SUP editor, Dania Roumieh, Sebastian shares his research on microplastics to raise awareness of the several ways microplastics affect organisms and the environment.

What was the inspiration to join the Sustainability Education team?

“As an economics student, you’re always involved with these concepts, that everything is limited. So, we like to study, ‘how can we use these resources in the best possibly way’. So, from that principle, I’ve been interested about sustainability. I had the opportunity to do these units about circular economy, which is related to sustainability.

Sebastian at WSU (Credit: Sebastian Florian Guzman)

Circular economy says that everything should be reused – our clothes, plastic bottles, everything should be reused. We shouldn’t have to waste in our economy, that’s what got me inspired behind this university”.

How are microplastics impacting our environment today?  

“Microplastics are small particles of plastic, less than five millimetres in size. They aren’t visible to the naked eye. You find these microplastics in cosmetics too. It affects us all because when micro-plastics are going to rivers or oceans and small plants too. The small fish eat this, and the big fish eat the smaller fish, right?

Figure 2: Sebastian during his project (Credit: (Credit: Sebastian Florian Guzman)

When animals eat these microplastics, it affects their body. So, when the microplastics are in the ocean, they absorb chemicals that you can find in the environment. So, the microplastic enters the food chain, and we will end up consuming.

It not only affects the fish in the ocean, but the consequences of those microplastics have in our body is a huge issue. Like when we wash our clothes, we put it in the washing machine, and this is like one of the biggest principal resources of microplastics. We can find microplastics in our clothes because of the synthetic materials like nylon.

Once our clothes are in the washing machine, these fibred from our own clothes go into the waterways and all end up in the oceans. How can we fight this problem or avoid these problems? It’s not that difficult. We can use bag filters for our washing machines, they’re a little bit expensive but worth it”

Figure 3: Research in progress (Credit: Sebastian Florian Guzman)

What do you say to the WSU student body regarding this project?

“I would like to tell everyone to educate themselves about microplastics because I know that many people have never heard of this before. I studied and read up on all these facts, and researched microplastics with the university. It’s a very important topic to discuss and research about”

Figure 4: Sebastian and his research team (Credit: Sebastian Florian Guzman)

 

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Rameshwar Roy: “It is our duty to grab the chances whenever possible”

Rameshwar Roy takes us through his journey from Kolkata to speacialising in Aboriginal health with a Masters of Public Health...
Rameshwar’s Graduation at Western Sydney University (June 2021). Source: Rameshwar Roy.

Rameshwar Roy completed his Masters in Public Health last year after completing his undergraduate degree in Biotechnology and Molecular Biology – sticking to what he’s always wanted to do. After finishing his course, he started working in the lab sector, but his heart was looking for a person-centred role.

Interviewed by former W’SUP Director of Student Publications, Sarah Cupitt, Rameshwar shares the journey of how his involvement in various NGO projects led to the idea of further specialisation of his career in the health industry as an international student studying at WSU.

Udayan, in Kolkata, is an NGO that Steve Waugh contributed to which helped leprosy-affected children. Waugh’s association with Kolkata and the NGO shaped Rameshwar’s teenage years. Later, when he researched and found Australia as the 2nd top country for Health Service, he decided to study here at WSU to learn and gain experience.

How did you find a full-time job in the Health sector after graduating, especially in Aboriginal health?

“A health service job depends on experience – how much anyone can acquire throughout the study period. I attended a lot of seminars, workshops to understand the perspective of various organisations. I also attended seminar invitations hosted by other universities, which helped build a clear picture of the system-specific necessary information. The job market is always looking for an enthusiastic candidate, willing to learn and a good team player. Everyone has to be positive in attitude and try to help peers.

A helping attitude is one of the factors which employers try to find in candidates. From those activities, I got a chance to do some training on Aboriginal culture awareness, which helped me to get an extra advantage to become Service Delivery Coordinator for Aboriginal Health Service in Kimberly.”  

How has being an international student shaped your journey and the challenges you’ve faced?

“Being culturally and linguistically diverse, it is not easy to understand and absorb the different systems, cultures and pace [of the systems and cultures]. But the main thing is to keep the eyes and the heart open to learn. Understanding the subject content taught in university and how that can be utilised in the real field is the main factor. University professors were really helpful to grip the subject content as much as I needed. I got my first part-time job in the health sector through the University job portal – Career Hub.”

What programs at WSU assisted you in your journey to success?

“I would say the whole journey was very important to success. I did all the classes on campus except last semester online due to COVID 19. I also attended student activities arranged by the student union and student success committee, e.g., LEAD, 21C project, RUOK, Mentorship programs, internal and external seminars, subject related exhibitions. I attended all, participated actively and was the winner of few group projects. Those gave me a lot of ideas and experiences for future steps.”

LEAD Presentation Ceremony 2019 at Parramatta South Campus. Source: Rameshwar Roy.

If you could redo your university experience, is there anything you would do differently?

“Some student programs like Project Boost I would have liked to attend definitely. I could not participate in many research projects due to the pressure of the units in my degree subject. Recently I came across a new module named Engaging Students for Community Wellbeing which made me fascinated to join some research courses so that I can be part of the program. I wish to join similar projects later with more experience from work to contribute to the future health system.”

You mentioned you were involved in various NGO projects; what were they, and what’s a memorable experience you had with them?

“I was involved in different NGOs focused on various aspects in the health industry like mental health, gender quality, disease burden, refugee funds etc. Those are important episodes of my university journey in Australia. Back in India, I was part of those NGOs working on health service programs for sex workers and their children. All those experiences brought a lot of memories, challenges that words cannot describe. Still, it can be said, a single smile from the participant can bring all happiness after overcoming the challenges for them, and that encourages me to do more for the community.”

Rameshwar with Sydney Health Service Delivery Team. Source: Rameshwar Roy.

Rameshwar’s words of advice:

“It is very important to relate the units which are taught in the syllabus to the real world. That helps get a clear perspective of the education system required for future research or the job world. University provides a lot of exposure. It is our duty to grab the chances whenever possible.”

 

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Marouf Alemeddine: “You don’t realise what you have until you lose it”

WSU university student, Marouf, shares his insights to challenges he faces when transferring degrees, and the importance of putting yourself first. ...

Marouf Alemeddine has decided to change degrees after his first year of university. He explains the reasons behind transferring from Medicine to Teaching, and what inspired him to follow his dreams. Interviewed by W’SUP editor, Dania Roumieh, Marouf shares the challenges he faced after losing his grandmother, emphasising the importance of prioritising yourself and your mental health as a student.

 

Why did you decide to change your degree?

“Many things … on top of COVID-19 changed my perspective on what I want from life – my grandma got sick and passed away. I realised that I wanted to take on a career path that not only gave me a better direction, but also gave me a quality of life, and very rewarding.

Marouf Alemeddine

 

What made you want to transfer from Medicine to Teaching?

“As rewarding as medicine can be, and as great of a professional it is in the real world – I felt that I had to find my true passion … I feel that helping students is my passion, and that teaching goes beyond the classroom…

 

it’s not a matter of what content you teach or getting your HSC, it’s about developing long-term relationships with your students. I still remember my teacher from high school and till today, he’s honestly my biggest inspiration when it comes to teaching. Because without him even realising what he’s done for me – he’s a role model for me.”

 

Since changing degrees, how are you finding studying considering all the obstacles you’ve faced, in particular with COVID-19?

“When everything transitioned online because of COVID – I was dreading it. I used to enjoy engaging in conversations with my classmates, and I found that interacting on zoom calls wasn’t the same. I found it much harder to adapt and I still don’t feel like I’ve completely adapted…

 

On top of that, with my grandmother passing, I made everything harder. I realised I needed to take a break impulse and see that I needed to mentally recover. I was mentally and physically drained and I couldn’t keep up. It’s important to take care of your mental health.”

 

How have you managed to maintain your wellbeing and yourself since?

“I put my studies on hold for a second and I began to kind of appreciate everything that was around me. I think that really helped me, just being grateful for what I have, because as cliché as it sounds – you don’t realise what you have until you lose it…

 

After losing my grandmother, I didn’t want to make the same mistakes of putting my studies first and my family second. There were so many times that she was healthy, and for instance, I wouldn’t go to that family barbeque on a Sunday because I had worked, or I was studying…

 

I never really sat down and thought to myself: wow, this could be the last time we’re all here together. You begin to really appreciate what you do have, and I don’t want to make those same mistakes again…

 

After a while, I started to go out and enjoy life more often. I enjoyed the free time I have with family and made the most of it before returning back to university. I started to enjoy the small things like going to pick my sisters up with my mum, or going to cafes, or fishing with my friends. I’m constantly reflecting on my life and can’t afford to make the same mistake of sacrificing my mental health. I gave myself that free time to think about the company around me, and that’s what really helped me get back on track. It’s a work in progress but it will always be a work in progress”.

 

Marouf’s words of advice:
You have to prioritise yourself. Be selfish. Put yourself first, because I found that I was constantly putting myself second. So, if somebody needed something, I dropped everything I was doing and helped them … even though it was hard, I wanted to help them and that it’s a good thing. But you have to always put yourself first”