‘@ Home in MN’ connects students

Students from farther away face different struggles than residents.

Jenna Wilcox

When freshman Fabian Young took the seven-hour trip from his hometown of Chicago to Minneapolis this August, he had to adapt to the challenges that came with being so far from home.

âÄúNo one from my high school goes to the [University of Minnesota],âÄù he said.

But a new program called @ Home in MN was started this year to help out-of-state students like Young make connections, enhance their experience at the University and improve out-of-state student retention rates.

âÄúWhat we know about students who leave mid-semester is that most of them are from out of state,âÄù said Beth Lingren Clark, director of Orientation and First-Year Programs.

Enrollment for students from states with reciprocity agreements like Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota has been on the decline for the past four years, while enrollment for less-commonly represented states like Texas and California has increased 1.6 percent.

In an effort to prevent those students from leaving the University, OFYP and the Office of Undergraduate Education, started the initiative.

Emails were sent to upper-class students, faculty and staff, originally from other states, to volunteer to support new students making the difficult transition.

âÄúThe response was tremendous,âÄù Lingren Clark said, adding that 28 states were represented in the volunteer pool.

The first âÄúmeet-and-greetâÄù event for the program was Sept. 19. It was informal so students could come and speak with the volunteers about their concerns, ask questions and start making connections.

Lingren Clark said the event was so successful that a meeting was held Wednesday to discuss the next steps for the program.

âÄúWeâÄôve had great ideas from volunteers on how we can keep engaging with students,âÄù Lingren Clark said.

Problems with the distance

While out-of-state students share many of the same concerns as homegrown students, Lingren Clark said they can face additional difficulties living so far away from home.

âÄúOne of the things that differs from [in-state] students is that being able to get home and see family and friends is a little more challenging,âÄù she said.

Some other concerns can include things like being able to navigate campus and the surrounding areas, adjusting to the weather and being away from familiar resources such as health care providers.

Lindsay Helmila, a junior studying biology, society and environment, witnessed her roommates struggle with many of those concerns her freshman year. Helmila, from Wisconsin, lived in a quad in Pioneer Hall with roommates from Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

âÄúFor them it was a little bit harder because they had to bring everything they owned with them,âÄù she said. âÄúThen at the end of the year they had to get rid of a lot of things because they couldnâÄôt really take it with them on a plane to go home for the summer.âÄù

Perhaps one of the biggest things that all students have in common is the concern for making friends. Unfortunately, those from outside Minnesota find themselves at a disadvantage, Lingren Clark said.

âÄúSome students come from the metro area, so they have a built-in network,âÄù she said,

âÄúwhereas out-of-state students might not know as many people so they have to work harder to make those connections.âÄù