I recently started my Master's in Physics. My Bachelor's was not in Physics, but all of my research was. I worked with a very supportive supervisor who wanted me to do my Master's thesis with him. He has been encouraging and kind from the beginning.

I have been feeling incredibly sad and hopeless since the beginning of my MSc. I have been feeling not up to it for a while now, and I thought that perhaps a change in the environment (I moved to another country) coupled with the fact that I will be doing what I am passionate about will help me. It hasn't been the case. The courses are challenging and everyone is really smart, which I was anticipating, but what I was not anticipating is my total inability to put my mind towards work. I have always been able to compensate my lack of intellectual smarts by working hard and doing the best that I can. I seem to have totally lost this ability. I cannot concentrate, and find myself isolating from others. All I can do is cry and sleep. Everything feels like a total blur. I had a clear vision of what kind of research I wanted to work on, and I am shocked at myself for how quickly everything seems to have fallen apart.

I am feeling really anxious to speak to my supervisor about this. I would rather not disclose something so personal, and honestly, I am very embarrassed to be letting him down like this. I don't know what my next course of action should be:

  1. Quit the program: I won't lie, I would prefer this. But it would mean letting my supervisor and family down, going back home having failed, and I don't have a job to back me up. This will leave a gaping hole in my resume.

  2. Reduce the courseload for first semester: This seems like a good enough idea, but I am not sure if I have the strength to get through even just a few courses.

  3. Tough it out: Carry on with the current courseload and just hope for the best.

What should I do? I am also planning to speak to the university counsellor, but I have been holding back because the only way to book an appointment is by contacting the course secretariat which feels rather invasive. It's all in my head, but I don't know what to tell myself to feel better.

  • 1
    Speaking to the university counsellor is a good first step but I would encourage you to seek help from a mental health professional. Your symptoms could indicate depression which is a serious health issue.
    – user9482
    Oct 24, 2023 at 5:50
  • One question, from where an to where did you move, if you moved from a place with a lot of sun to one without sun lack of vitamin D could play a role, or changes in the level/type of social interaction. And even if it is "all in your head", that all in your head is a series of physiological changes to your body that have moved your biochemistry away from the human average (and technically may be distributed throughout your body as well, e.g. changes in hormone levels). Oct 24, 2023 at 7:28
  • @NAMcMahon from Asia to Germany
    – justauser
    Oct 24, 2023 at 7:30
  • 1
    Depending on where in Asia it could be Vit D. I moved from Australia to Germany and started being effected by it around this time my first year, after 1-2 weeks of 10-15 ug vit D with breakfast I was feeling much better. So you could go to the shops today and buy some and start taking it (higher doses won't speed up the process). But keep moving ahead with the councilor and mental health professional. I know there is a stigma against mental health in Asia but less so here, and part of doing a degree in another country is experiencing the culture. If it is just vit D, you have a funny story. Oct 24, 2023 at 7:51
  • Also could be social, you're use to a more communal society and Germany is more individualistic than you are use to. Oct 24, 2023 at 7:52


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