Campus Health examines UA freshman experience

By Raya Tahan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Amber Sinclair, an undeclared freshman from Phoenix, was so lonely and homesick at the start of the school year that she used to put sad movies in her VCR and bawl.

"I was so overwhelmed at first that I was just numb," Sinclair said. "I did not meet anyone in my dorm for two weeks. It's a little better now, but I still miss my mom and write her every day."

New students like Sinclair are not rare, said Michelle McKinney, a research specialist for Campus Health Promotions. A research project called "Freshmen on Campus, the First Six Weeks and Beyond" is being sponsored by Health Promotions.

McKinney said that research points to the first six weeks of freshman life as being critical. This period is often the first time students become involved with alcohol use, drug use or are victims of a sexual assault, according to McKinney.

Over 100 freshmen take part in the project by recording daily activities, feelings and impressions, McKinney said.

McKinney said she would like the results to determine why some freshmen make a smooth transition while others have a more difficult experience. She said she would like to provide all freshmen with the resources from those who have made a smooth transition.

Programs resulting from the project may begin as soon as next fall, McKinney said.

The freshmen will continue to record entries in their journals for the entire academic year. While some write every day, McKinney said, others write every two or three days. The length of each entry ranges from sentences to paragraphs.

A typical journal entry, McKinney said, contains perceptions about classes, people and life situations. She thinks they are open and honest.

All entries are anonymous. The journals are printed with a code number rather than a name.

McKinney said the goals of the project are to step back and really look at that first six weeks. She said she would like to specify the difficulties that impact personal and academic well-being.

"Can they find help when they want it?" she said. "Do they want more assistance academically, handling stress or developing new social networks?"

Determining the answers to those questions may determine which factors are risky and lead to dangerous alcohol and drug situations, she said.

"We are hoping that what we find can be translated back into programs or support for students," McKinney said. "If they are asking for more support or how to meet people, we could provide programing."

Some participants were recruited

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