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The freshmen experience at UW-River Falls

October 9, 2018

The college experience differs significantly from person to person.

Out of several interviews conducted by Student Voice staff, it was discovered that homesickness is one of the leading causes of stress among freshmen students. Students are accepted at UWRF from across the state, the country, and even internationally; for some, the campus is in their backyard. For others, what they call “home” might be hundreds of miles away.

“Some things have been difficult, like being away from home so long is weird. Being away from my family” said freshman Abby Palkowski.

Other causes of stress include money problems, procrastination, or teaching techniques.“I guess finding out how each instructor teaches differently is a little different,” Palkowski continued. “Some teachers give out study guides for tests and others don’t, so that’s kind of stressful. But all the teachers are very open and if you need any help, they give office hours. Otherwise, they really try to make time for you if you need it.”

An anonymous freshman student disagrees. They believe that professors need different techniques. “I’m falling apart,” they confided. “I’m going through a break-up and in class, I always sit right next to the professor, but he always ignores me. I procrastinate way too much, and when I get stressed, I go somewhere alone, and I cry. Or I talk to people. I like to vent. Or I just ignore the situation.”

According to ACHA/NCHA UW-River Falls Student Health and Mental Health Data, in 2018, 30.1 percent of UWRF have experienced stress that negatively affects their academics. Within the last twelve months, 43 percent of male students and 65 percent of female students have felt ‘overwhelming anxiety’.

Some students offer methods they use to keep everyday stress at bay. “A lot of people have a hard time transitioning, but I feel like I’ve transitioned just fine,” freshman student Blaine Cabett says. To deal with stress, Cabett goes on walks.

A freshman commuter, Beckett Shantz gave his input. “I’ve had a good time so far. I haven’t had any major incidents and I don’t have a huge workload; I’m just enjoying myself. But I do have to spend a lot of money on gas just to drive here. Money has been a huge concern as of now. Free parking, that’d be great. I vouch for commuters, we need free parking. To help with stress, I try to fix whatever the problem is. Most of the time it’s homework, so, I try to get it done as soon as possible just to make sure the stress is out of the way. Otherwise, I talk to other people about it. It makes it easier if you know other people are going through the same thing.” Shantz had a tip for individuals with stress like his. “Don’t procrastinate. I know they drill that into your brain during high school, but don’t procrastinate and find people to do work with, or people that can help you, it’s a very good idea.”

Numerous interviewees also recommended study groups or sessions, tutoring and finding a support system. A support system is highly recommended by Director of Counseling and Student Health Services, Alice Reilly-Myklebust. The Counseling and Student Health Services offer numerous resources to help all students, not only freshmen. Reilly-Myklebust was insistent that students feel they are not alone.

Over the past quarter of a century that Reilly-Myklebust has worked at UWRF, students have been slowly opening up more and more to the idea of counseling services. “What we used to see is that it would take a few weeks for the councilors schedules to fill up. The first week this year they were all filled up before classes even started,” Reilly-Myklebust said.

Reilly-Myklebust believes the reason for this rise is the promotion that now goes into Counseling and Student Health Services around campus. With the rise in emotional stress and anxiety among college students, it’s important for students to understand there are resources available to them.

Many students have experienced emotional conflict, but issues that are put off or ignored can build up and may eventually boil over, becoming a bigger problem later down the line, according to Reilly-Myklebust. Whether your issues are big or small, Counseling and Student Health Services are there to help. In addition, their services are completely anonymous.

“We’re all licensed providers, we can’t – by law – share information with your parents or the university. The only way would be if a student were in danger of harm to self or others, then we, by law, would have to follow up on that.” Reilly-Myklebust continued. “The records here aren’t your educational records that everyone can access. These are confidential records.”

Reilly-Myklebust was very excited to have a chance to reach all those reading and send her message to them. Before the end of the interview, Reilly-Myklebust was asked if she had anything to say to the young people at UWRF. “You know I sometimes think students think that they are the only ones struggling with anything. You’re not alone, absolutely not. Don’t suffer. There are so many resources and services out there to help. Don’t wait until it’s the end of the semester and you’re failing everything.”

Reilly-Myklebust truly is here to help students and wants to watch them succeed. If you would like to meet a counselor for any issues you have been dealing with, then you can schedule an appointment on the UWRF Counseling and Health Services website or drop by the office at 211 Hagestad Hall.