You are not the only one
As the challenges and responsibilities of life on and off campus begin to coalesce, things can get pretty hairy for students. Anxiety, stress, and lack of free time can lead us to engage in unhealthy coping behaviors—like drinking, smoking, or eating junk food—and to severely restrict the time we spend with our support system—friends, family, or other people who provide us with social support. When things get rough, students (especially new students who are adjusting to so many different transitions) often feel that they're the only one who may be having a hard time keeping it together. The truth is that ALL students, even the most successful and organized often feel overwhelmed and isolated. That's why we've outlined the strategies below. We want to help you avoid solidifying poor health habits while providing tips to keep you mentally and physically fit.
What It Means
Over 24,000 students—18,000 undergraduates and over 6,000 graduate students—attend PSU. Even though the number of students living on campus is increasing, PSU has traditionally been known as a “commuter campus," meaning that many students live off campus and fit courses in between their work or child care schedules. What it also means is that a lot of folks take classes without ever really connecting to their colleagues on campus. Students who don't engage in campus community often end up feeling isolated and alone. That said, even folks who live on campus in the FYE can feel isolated or that they're the only ones who are experiencing high stress levels due to the rigor of their academic program.
How To Deal with It
- Take advantage of student support services.
- Talk to other students.
- Attend social and cultural events.
- Join a student group or club.
- Get involved in the community.
Where to Find Help
To get an idea of the campus services available to you when and if you do need help, check out the PSU webpage for current students and scroll down to the Student Services section for links to information about specific support categories, such as student groups, Student Health and Counseling, the Multicultural Center, and the Women’s Resource Center.
Strategies for Success
Take Advantage of Student Support Services
The student services available on campus are free services that are supported though student fees. One reason we push them so hard on this site is that you're already paying for them, so you might as well make the most of them. These groups are in the business of helping students. If you're feeling completely overwhelmed, it might help you to talk with a expert. Confidential counseling services are available to students at the Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC). There are also support organizations that target particular groups of students, such as the Women’s Resource Center, Veterans’ support services, services for international students, the Queer Resource Center and the Multicultural Center. These are only a few of the student services that PSU offers, so if you need help finding something, don't hesitate to ask a professor, your academic advisor, or friends on campus about services that are specific to the issue you're seeking support for. No matter what you need, there's likely a service that exists to help you. Once you have found out what services are being offered, go out and use them —you’re paying for them!
Connect with Other Students
Connecting to other students is important because they provide support, encouragement, and information about programs and services that may be useful to you. A good place to get to know other students is in your classes, and a good way to make this happen is to join a study group. If you can’t find one that's already in place, start one yourself. Here's a tip from an already successful PSU student about how to make friends in your classes: “I took the class that had the least amount of students, and I made sure I learned every person’s name, so if I saw them out in the world I could say “Hey, I know you!” Another student said, “You’ve got to be brave. Talk to people, and you’ll find you share some common interests, and once you get that common interest, then the conversations start flowing.”
Attend Campus Social and Cultural Events
Outside of class, campus activities are a great place to meet other students. If you both show up at an event there's a good chance you at least have that in common. Here are some websites where you can find events and happenings on campus.
- The PSU calendar lists general university-wide events at PSU. http://www.pdx.edu/events/4
- Smith Memorial Student Center calendar lists activities within Smith Center. http://www.ems.aux.pdx.edu/VirtualEMS/BrowseEvents.aspx
- PSU Student Groups Events lists activities put on by different student groups. http://web.pdx.edu/~salp/calendar.php?action=view_all
- Daily Vanguard has an online version of the PSU student newspaper with listings of events on and off campus. http://www.dailyvanguard.com/
Join Student Clubs and Groups
Joining a student group is another good way to connect with other students and reduce feelings of isolation. A complete list can be found athttp://web.pdx.edu/~salp/salp_saga/groups_display.php. Student groups are open to all registered students regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, gender orientation, nationality, cultural identity, income, or ability. Go to the Student Activities and Leadership Programs' website for more information about how to get involved. Here's a tip from a PSU student who's about to graduate and start a job that he found through his connection in a PSU student club: “Joining the organization, for me, was exactly what got me here. I even became involved just by attending the meetings, getting to know the students, which then built relationships that we had going on to other classes.”
Find a group that sounds interesting to you, and use the e-mail contact listed on the site to ask about attending a meeting. Usually that'll be all it takes—they'll go out of their way to make sure you get connected to the group. Three of the types of groups that students find most valuable are faith-based, multicultural, and groups focused on academic pursuits.
A source of strength for many people are faith-based organizations. Moving into a new setting it is not uncommon to feel like you've lost this source of support. There are a wide range of faith-based campus support groups for students right on campus.
Maintaining a connection to your cultural background is another important way to feel like you belong. In a strange and new setting people often may find it difficult to balance the new challenges in their life within their cultural paradigm. The students at PSU currently have twenty-three different multicultural student groups, and the chances are pretty good that you'll be able to find one that suits your needs.
If you're the type of student who's driven to get all the professional connections that you can, there are more than sixty different student groups, not to mention all of the department sponsored groups, that would be a great place to start your networking. These are going to be many other students who, like you, want to get the most out of the academic part of college, while still making friends.
Get Involved in the Community
Another important source of social support (and professional experience!) is to volunteer in the community. When you’re helping other people you have less time to brood about your own issues. Volunteering can be another way to meet other students who share your values and interests. Here is a website for service opportunities at PSU: pdx.edu/cae/serveportland. TheUnited Way and Idealist.org are also excellent resources for volunteerism in Portland and its surrounding communities.
Another opportunity to meet students who share your values, help in the community, and earn some money at the same time is through Students in Leadership for Service (SLS). SLS strategically creates student leaders through development of civic engagement skills and real-world experience working with not-for-profit organizations in the Portland metropolitan region. Members serve five to ten hours per week at a community-based organization for an entire academic year, acting as quasi-staff members at the organization.
Stay Physically Active
Another way to combat feelings of isolation and the effects of stress is to get plenty of physical exercise. PSU offers many opportunities for you to stay active and meet other students. Most of these events and classes are free or inexpensive to students. Check out the campus recreation site to get an idea about what's offered. There are links to more than twenty different PSU recreation clubs, from snowboarding to dance to poker. Find one that interests you and get involved. You'll also find links to the intramural team sports. Find one that you enjoy and sign up to be on a team. Check out the outdoor program's equipment rental where you can rent (for super cheap) a wide variety of gear from tents and kayaks to sleeping bags and skis. Not only will you feel better for increasing your physical activity, you’re likely to meet other students who share your interests in physical activity and the outdoors.
Going back over all the tips on this page, the message should be clear. When you feel isolated, stressed-out, or overwhelmed, use the PSU student services and resources to improve your situation. You'll meet people who'll help you feel connected to the campus community, and you'll make new friends in the process.