The Indie on Main is providing cultural experiences including art shows and theatre performances for the city and campus community. Photo courtesy of The Indie on Main
The first day of your college life begins, and you’re excited. As you head to your first class, you’re greeted by unfamiliar faces and quickly find yourself given an intense workload that’s entirely your responsibility.
You’re living with a stranger, missing your old bed, pulling all-nighters and finding it hard to make friends in what little spare time you have. It’s easy to get overwhelmed during your college experience. Potomac State College is working to make sure that students stay happy through it all.
One of these steps involved looking at students who decided to leave the campus. PSC surveyed students in 2016 and 2017; in both years, the surveys revealed approximately 20 percent of students surveyed who left experienced emotional problems, and 20 percent also indicated they felt alone or isolated.
In 2016, 35 percent of students surveyed said they were dissatisfied with social life on campus, a number that dropped to 9 percent in 2017.
Pennsylvania-born student Aleeya Mayo said that the social life was one of the reasons she left PSC.
Mayo said she missed city life and being close to home. “Potomac State compared to Philly is like a completely different world. In the city I had all of my friends and family, about a million places to shop and eat, but at PSC I didn’t have that,” she said.
Counselor Kristin Morton had advice for students facing homesickness and emotional problems. “ Understand that homesickness is a very normal feeling when adjusting to a brand-new environment and does not mean that there’s anything negative about the new place or one’s ability to fit in there,” she said.
“I definitely got homesick a lot, but something that helped with the distance was just applying myself to my school work 100 percent.”
– Aleeya Mayo
“The best way to move through homesickness is to get involved in your new environment. The more engaged one is in building his/her new life, the quicker the feelings of homesickness will pass.”
Morton offered a reminder that Counseling Services is “always ready to listen” to students dealing with any issues.
Combatting these feelings of homesickness are a high priority for the school. Alumni Relations Coordinator Derek Artimez believes PSC is capable of building a welcoming community that retains students through student life and academics that engage students.
“If we succeed in building a true community, then this will feel like a second home to students, relieving some of the strains of homesickness,” he said.
Dean of Students William Letrent has been working to offer activities students will enjoy. Surveys have been used to gauge student interest in various activities.
Letrent talked about changes coming in the fall that should help students get involved before classes even start. The fall semester’s Welcome Week will be focused more on team-building exercises and less on academia that some students found “boring.”
Students will be grouped with classmates from their WVUe class, in the hopes that students will see familiar faces as classmates on the first day of the semester.
Part of WVUe classes include encouraging students to participate in activities on campus.
“We are looking at many ways to help students persist from one semester to the next until they complete a degree,” Campus President Orlikoff said.
“This includes academic support, advising and mentorship by faculty, student activities, financial assistance, welcoming facilities and an overall positive campus climate. We want students to feel they belong and are a part of the campus community so they want to stay and complete their degrees. With a degree in hand, students are in a great place to launch into their future.”
Making the area more college-friendly is something the city of Keyser is working towards as well. Stephen Settimi runs the Indie on Main, an art house designed to give local artists a venue to share their works with the public.
The Indie has worked with PSC in developing a script-writing opportunity for aspiring playwrights and has created a non-profit aimed at providing scholarships to students for the arts.
Settimi said the Indie offers students “an exposure to the visual and performing arts that they might normally find in a city area.”
Settimi added that students who want more things to do in the area need to get out, participate and make their voices be heard.
“There are lots of cultural and social groups in the area. They’re always looking for ideas,” he said.
Settimi and other local businesses try to give customers what they want to see, but in return participation is required.
He remarked that the Indie has shown numerous films, from classics to recent releases, but attendance has made it hard to justify the licensing fee.
The Indie now offers a “BYOM” – Bring Your Own Movie – where anyone can come in and stream what they’d like to see in a private theatre among friends. He added that the Indie tries to support anyone who comes in with a good idea. “We welcome people to come in and say we want to do this. Generally the answer is yes.”