September 04, 2012 12:00AM
When Grace Strouse toured Pittsburg State University with her mother, she fell in love with the campus and knew almost immediately that Pitt State was where she wanted to go to college. In her first few weeks, however, she found herself deeply homesick and struggling.
“I’m shy,” Strouse said. “Meeting people was really hard and I kind of felt like an outsider.”
Strouse’s feelings are not unusual for freshmen and transfer students, even on a campus known for its friendly feel, according to Christy Perez, a licensed clinical professional counselor in PSU’s Counseling Services Office.
“College is a big adjustment for students,” Perez said. “It can be particularly difficult for students who are shy or introverted.”
Almost all students feel some level of homesickness at some time, Perez said. That diminishes as they get involved on campus, make friends and come to feel more at home. But for others, it is more severe and can lead to academic difficulties.
Strouse said it was her mother who insisted that she reach out for some help.
“There was a conference call with Christy and me,” Strouse said.
That call was a pivotal moment for Strouse, who with Perez’s help, began to make some changes.
“She helped me realize it’s not such a scary world,” Strouse said. “She helped me get involved in extracurricular activities. Since then, I’m completely different.”
Strouse joined the Karate Club, where she made new friends. She’s now also a member of the ASSU, a safety program. Perhaps most remarkable of all, Strouse is beginning her second year as a Resident Assistant (RA) in one of the university’s residence halls.
Perez said more students should follow Strouse’s lead.
“We need to get them to understand that it’s OK to get counseling,” Perez said.
For all students adjusting to life on campus, Perez offered some basic advice.
“We promote good overall health,” Perez said. “That begins with getting enough sleep, eating properly and exercise. It is harder to adjust to college life if you’re tired and eating poorly.”
Perez and Strouse also offered another piece of advice: get involved.
“There are so many campus organizations and groups,” Perez said. “There’s bound to be one or several focused on your particular interests. And they’re all eager to have new members.”
For parents with concerns or questions, Perez said, University Counseling Services offers advice on their website, www.pittstate.edu/counseling, or parents may call 620-235-4452.