Starting life on a completely new college campus is a major transition for most students, one that can cause visible changes in students’ mental and physical health — not to mention an overwhelming sense of not knowing where to fit in.
Although students may feel isolated, their peers are likely experiencing similar difficulties while adjusting to college life.
“Students often have the impression that everyone else is loving college and finding friends, which isn’t always the case,” said Communications Director for the Division of Student Life, Darcy Wittberger. “As with any major life transition, people experience ups and downs.”
However, there are various resources on campus to help make the shift into college life less daunting.
According to a 2008 study, eight in 10 college students reported feeling frequent stress in their daily lives, an increase of nearly 20 percent from a survey taken just five years before. The reasons for this are varied and include rigorous schoolwork, social anxiety and changes in physical fitness.
Away from their usual routine, students may see drastic changes in daily habits like diet and sleep patterns, some of which have negative effects on health.
Often, students are challenged mentally and financially to make healthy eating choices, which could be the determining factor in everything from a student’s success in class to their dental health. There are resources on UW-Madison’s campus where students can find healthy, cheap food options, including but not limited to the Open Seat Student Food Pantry, which usually has fresh fruit and vegetables available.
University Health Services is one reliable resource that offers information about prioritizing sleep, exercise, and finding connections. UHS explains that something as simple as going on a walk can increase your body’s supply of endorphins, which can improve your mood.
This year, UHS is offering a workshop called Adjusting to College, which aims to assist students as they adapt to their new circumstances.
Even if students do simple things to be healthier, the worry still exists that they won’t be able to find friends or a place that makes them feel at home on campus.
“Building strong connections can take time, but there are many resources on campus to help increase a sense of belonging and connection,” according to Co-Director of UW-Madison Mental Health Services, Andrea Lawson.
To make connections, students can get involved in student organizations, many of which are represented at the Fall Student Organization Fair, taking place this year on Sept. 12 and 13 at the Kohl Center.
For students whose identities are less represented on campus, the Red Gym on Langdon Street houses the Multicultural Student Center and the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center. These, among other organizations, have peer mentoring programs, lead events and are a safe place for productive conversation.
So, if you’re new on campus and you feel a little nervous or out of place … don’t worry, you’re not alone!