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Using her own journey through challenges to benefit others

Emory Report | May 10, 2021

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Nursing student Mimi Yu recognizes the importance of focusing on both physical and mental health. Known as an encourager throughout her time on campus, she continues to share affirmations during her countdown to graduation.

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Moving from home to college can produce many emotions. Excitement, apprehension, homesickness … They regularly show up each fall as a new group of students moves onto Emory’s campus. For Mimi Yu, making the move from Los Angeles to Atlanta came with additional stress and difficulty.

“It was very difficult,” she says. “I did not have a chance to visit Emory before I moved in. But the campus is beautiful … although we do have a lot of pollen.”

But as sure as the fact that pollen plays pivotal roles in the life cycle of a plant, so was the catharsis that occurred when Yu embarked on her first year of study. The journey through anxiety and coursework led Yu to become a peer counselor and instructor in Emory’s Health 1, 2, 3, 4 program.  

“There is a heavy Asian culture in Los Angeles and a lot of stigmas surrounding mental health,” Yu says. “It's not encouraged for people to talk, seek help or even take medications. Just moving to college gave me a lot of new experiences. There are a lot of people suffering from these problems and no one is alone.”

Yu finds strength in her work, both on campus and in the clinical environment. The aspiring nurse says working through stress and striving for good mental health helped when the college experience changed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It has been a difficult transition, especially during the first semester of the pandemic and then returning to campus and having a lot of COVID-19 testing,” Yu says. “Online learning isn't for everyone. Sometimes it gets tiring or makes it more difficult to be engaged in class meetings, but during these difficult times there are beneficial effects in terms of connecting with peers. We know we are struggling, so we strive even more to connect. We have group chats with our cohort and events to de-stress.”

Beyond her studies, Yu worked several jobs around campus and became a leader in various efforts encouraging mental health. She served as president of Emory Synapse for more than two years. Synapse coordinates peer learning and support opportunities for individuals living with brain injuries.

Yu’s resume also includes an internship with the Environmental Protection Agency and research on sleep medicine and cardiovascular disease. For her leadership, dedication and academic success, Yu was considered for multiple awards leading up to May 2021 Commencement.

“She is very passionate about promoting health and has a passion for intensive care nursing,” one nominator wrote. “It is wonderful to see this young scholar grow and pursue her passion to advance health. Both her drive to help patients and her talent for research on key areas of need in the nursing literature will broaden the sphere of nursing research and care.”

Yu left a few words of encouragement and congratulations for her fellow graduates and those remaining at Emory University, including faculty and staff:

"I hope everyone understands this isn't another generation graduating. We went through some difficult times. It took much more strength and resilience. I want to congratulate everyone having that courage and putting so much effort and time in a goal they set for themselves. I hope everyone can feel good about themselves for that.”