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University helps students cope with homesickness

Students at Pittsburg State University have a lot of people to turn to and a wide array of resources available to help them overcome the inevitable bout of homesickness.

Josh Cooper, a Pittsburg State University junior from Kansas City, Mo., said that even though he was excited about moving to campus when he was a freshman, there were times he felt homesick.

“Yeah, sometimes,” Cooper said. “I think everyone does.”

Kevin Randles, a senior from Joplin, Mo., and an assistant hall director in Willard Residence Hall, agreed.

“It would be surprising that a student never got at least a little homesick once in a while,” Randles said.

For most students, said Randle, who served as an RA for two years before assuming his current position, it’s not a big problem and often passes quickly. For some, however, it can become more serious.

“One of the signs I look for is when a student starts to get reclusive,” Randles said. “They may start talking to you less or start not showing up for classes. They’ll have their door shut a lot and sleep more.”

That’s where Residence Assistants (RAs) can have a big impact.

“We as RAs try to make sure students feel at home on the floor,” Randles said. “Especially the first six weeks, we try to build that feeling of family among students on the floor.”

Most students, Randles said, are able to deal with their homesickness. Those who need a little additional help can find it at University Counseling Services in the Bryant Student Health Center.

Randles said one of the surest ways to combat homesickness is to get involved on campus, whether it is in a sorority, fraternity, club or special interest group.

“We have to make sure students find their niche,” Randles said. “We’ve got a lot of clubs and activities on campus. There’s something for almost everyone. We just need to be able to talk to residents and see what they enjoy.”

Randles said the university puts a lot of effort into a wide variety of things that are designed to make it easy for students from across the country and around the world become part of the campus family. He mentioned the required Freshman Experience classes, a long list of free “Off 2 PSU” events and activities sponsored by Campus Activities, the Campus Activities Fair highlighting student clubs and organizations, and events planned by the RAs.

Randles said he believes these combined efforts not only make it easier for students to deal with the almost inevitable bout of homesickness, but also help them to forge relationships that last a lifetime.

“Whatever we build carries over to the next year and beyond,” Randle said. “I know I had three or four guys who are now living together off campus this year just because they enjoyed being together and doing things together last year in the residence hall.”

J.T. Knoll, coordinator for student prevention and wellness, said homesickness or separation anxiety is not unique to university students.

“Everyone experiences it, whether it’s the kindergartner on the first day of school or the business executive beginning a new job in a new town,” Knoll said. “That’s the first message for students: It’s normal.”

Knoll said the Student Prevention and Wellness website includes lists of tips for dealing with homesickness for both students and parents.

Randle added that homesickness isn’t an issue just for freshmen.

“At this point, although I’m a senior, I’m facing it a little bit (of homesickness) because my parents just moved from Joplin to being eight hours away in Texas,” Randle said. “I’m not used to not being able to run 30 minutes home, spend some time with my family and come back to campus.”

Randle and Cooper are both looking forward to a long holiday weekend when they can be home with family. For Cooper, it’s an hour-and-a-half drive. Randle said his dad paid for him to fly to Texas. After recharging their batteries with family, both said, they expect to be ready to jump into a busy fall semester of study and campus life.

For more information on homesickness, including tips for students and parents, visit the student wellness and prevention website at www.pittstate.edu/office/activities/programs/student-wellness or call 620-235-4062.

For information about counseling services on campus, visit the University Counseling Services website, www.pittstate.edu/office/counseling/, or call 620-235-4452.

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