Attending college in a different state can be daunting. If you are an out of state student, luckily, you’re not alone! In the fall of 2020, ATU recorded hosting over 650 out-of-state students. I come from the small town of Kansas, Oklahoma. Coming from a town with a population of a whopping 852 people, you could say attending ATU was a bit of a culture shock.

Here are four ways to settle in when you’re out of your comfort zone.

Adventure is Out There – Go Find It

The coolest part about being in a new setting is the opportunity to explore the area. My hometown consists of two gas stations, a dollar general, and endless amounts of farmland. Attending Arkansas Tech gave me the chance to take in scenery I wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

My degree is in Recreation and Parks Administration and I find myself venturing out to explore the countless hiking and biking trails in the Russellville area all the time. Resources I use to map out my weekend explorations are the AllTrails app and the Arkansas State Parks website.

Declare your Independence

The thought of going home every weekend to eat home-cooked meals and sleep in your big bed may sound tempting, but that’s just not realistic for those of us who travel from out of state. Getting a glimpse into life on my own has helped me discover new aspects of myself. On campus, I have been put in positions that force me to learn new skills like the ability to change a flat tire and to cook more than just chicken Ramen Noodles. Fostering your independence while in the controlled environment of college can help you seamlessly transition into life in the “real world.”

One resource I have found useful is the YouTube channel “Dad, how do I?” These videos give step-by-step guidance on a variety of tasks from ironing a dress shirt to changing a car battery.

Make Life Long Friends

At Tech, we are fortunate to have many opportunities to get involved. With hundreds of Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) on campus, it is almost certain that you can find a group of like-minded peers to congregate with. Check out TheLink to discover all the RSOs at ATU.

One of the biggest fears of any incoming student is the possibility of not making friends in college. Our college friends are important because we need a support system while we are away from home, and sometimes, we just need a ride to the grocery store.  Coming to ATU, I didn’t know anyone. I spent the first few weeks going to as many social events as possible and trying to get plugged into student groups that piqued my interest. This helped me meet many people and some of my closest friends to this day were made through those efforts.

Build Relationships with Your Professors

Having the opportunity to focus my time and energy on my own goals and priorities has helped me gain knowledge inside and outside the classroom.  I have learned how to manage my time and how to balance school and fun.  I have become my own advocate and when I need help, I have built relationships with my professors who guide me academically and personally. 

The professors at ATU are much more than just that. They are not only there when you need advice, but they introduce you to new ideas and experiences. The first chocolate gravy I’ve ever eaten was homemade by one of my professors and I will never be the same after tasting such sweet goodness!  Don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors for help and guidance.

So, out of state friends, when you start to feel homesick or overwhelmed, take a breath and remember you aren’t alone. You have a second family at ATU and we’ve got your back.

By: Glendon VanSandt
Glendon is a junior from Kansas, OK pursuing a degree in Recreation and Parks Administration and a minor in Leadership Studies. He is a Community Assistant for the Resorts and Recreation Living Learning Community, President of the Recreation and Parks club, and a board member for the ATU Special Olympics College. After graduation, Glendon plans to attend graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in Recreation Management!