Student Organizations Are A Great Way to Make Friends and Get Involved

An International Student’s Perspective

Alejandro Reyes Vega


Freshman year seems like a long time ago now, but it was barely two years ago that I moved to Mankato and started attending MSU. However, I can still remember what it felt like and can’t believe how much I have changed and my life has changed.

Being a freshman in college is not like being a freshman in high school. In high school you probably already had some friends whom with you attended middle school or elementary school or whom you might have even grown up with. It is also different than moving to a new school where you don’t know anyone.

When you start at a university, you barely know anyone and making friends can be a bit more challenging. Classes are way larger and people that you meet and make acquittance with might not have any other class with you or might not even be in the same major.

My first friends on campus were all international students that I met in orientation. Some were from the same country as me. Some also spoke Spanish. Others were in my orientation group and we became friends after being together for a few days.

However, over time I got involved in organizations and started talking to people whom I had class with. I strongly suggest getting to know people who you have class with. Doesn’t matter if it is only one class, it is good to have study buddies and you might even become friends. Getting involved in campus is another great way of making friends. I am part of different organizations such as CLASA – the Latino Student Organization on campus. Organizations and clubs allow you to make friends home you can share common interests and passions.

When classes started I felt lost for the first week and half. I never attended particularly large schools. The biggest school I ever attended didn’t have more than 500 people and that’s including faculty, staff, and students and that’s from sixth grade to twelfth grade. However, the map I got in orientation was useful and I soon became familiar with the names and locations of buildings (Although I must confess I still get lost in Trafton at times).

As I previously mentioned I am an international student so I was not familiar with the Mankato area and had only visited the town twice before. The first time for my tour, back when I was applying, and a second time after I graduated to leave all my stuff in storage while I traveled over the summer.

Being an international student in a new town as a freshman in college can be a little scary. First of all, we have a lot of rules to follow to make sure we maintain a legal status. Second of all, we don’t have a normal orientation like everyone else; internationals have international orientation that goes on during Welcome Week activities. Third of all, we kind of have to hear or expect stereotypes.

People assume I have Mexican ancestry or I was born in Mexico because I speak fluent Spanish. Others assume that because I am international I will have trouble speaking and that I should have a heavy accent (I have a slight accent 😁). Others think this is my first time in the U.S or I just moved to the U.S. Turns out I have been to the U.S. few times before and I moved here while I was still attending high school back when I was 16.

Your first year in college will be full of new and amazing experiences. Life will change and you as people will change too.



That First Family Reunion With Your College Student


Being a parent of a college student has its challenges. One of them can be the first meeting after students have been attending college for a few months and living away from home. No one knows what to expect when a parent first sees their student after a few weeks or months apart from home.

Are they the still dependent on mom and dad?

Have they changed so much that they don’t even resemble who they used to be?

Will they be embarrassed of being seen with their parents?

There is no rule book on what to do or what to expect when you haven’t seen your college son/daughter for a period of time. College introduces students to new experiences and opportunities. A lot of students realize that they have to start looking after themselves and have to start doing chores they never had to do; like laundry.

Your first reunion is highly encouraged. But be ready to expect changes in students. It is important to acknowledge growth and improvement. Be encouraging and supportive. Be sensitive but straightforward on criticism. It is important to have fun in your first reunion and not constantly argue on how or what they should do.

Try to meet some of your students’ friends and try to learn about their college life. Most college students are eager to see their parents. Also try to ask them what they need. College students are constantly hungry and it is useful to have snacks and food available; make sure they have a good supply.

Some parents might also learn that their students have a life that they are no longer a part of. College students often hang out late with their friends. They might not do it during family weekend or whenever your first reunion happens. However, it is better to expect it just in case you were planning on spending an entire evening together.

The most important factor to remember is that students will change. Not all students might make their own meals or wash their clothes as frequently as they should. However, students’ first few months and their first year at college will change their behavior and that change is maturity. They have been living their own experiences and making their own decisions where the outcomes range from performing beyond their own expectations to screwing up. They all add up to learning experiences.

Parents will now not always be part of the decision making but rather witness it. All the small changes college student go through in their short time in college will be apparent all at once in your first reunion. Just remember, you’re still their parent. Their love has transitioned with their new life as a college student.

Freshman Friendships Can Be Fast or Forever

Afure Adah

by AFURE ADAH, CSU PR Student Assistant

Freshman year feels like so long ago. I am a totally different person now going into my senior year. Still, I remember some of those early days so I thought I would share some tips and recollections as you step onto campus as new Mavericks.

Being on the Track Team

Being a college athlete, my college experience might be relatable to some, and totally different to others. For instance, I have an older sister and her worries going into college were,

  • Making friends
  • The freshman 15
  • Staying on task with studies

I, however, felt safe in all these areas. I knew I’d have teammates I would be around every day so it wouldn’t be too hard to make friends. I’d have practice, so I’d have to work out to stay fit every day. And, as a freshman athlete, study hall is mandatory.

One thing I found helpful as a freshman: I was required to take the First Year Experience class. All athletes have to take that class, but I’d encourage you to take it. That class lots of useful information that helped me to get better integrated to college life.

Here are other thoughts from my “first year experience”:


Freshman year is so new and there is so much going on in school and socially. Friendships will come and go. It happens kind of fast the first year.

You may find that if you don’t talk to someone for two weeks, that friendship is basically over and you are now just acquaintances again.  Not to worry though, there are so many more years and experiences you will go through, that you just have to be okay with adapting to that. You have to let some friends go, and be open to making new ones.

I have my two main best friends, but I have been in about two different friend groups in the past three years. And I have loved my time in each of them. It happens!

My Freshman Year Favorites

My favorite part about being a freshman was being able to sit and catch up with all my friends in the cafeteria. I mean, let’s be honest, that is basically what our group chat was made for. Some of them went something like this:

“Anyone wanna go to the caf with me?”

“We are going to the caf in 5 if anyone wants to come”

“wya?” –

–“we all in the caf, wya??”

I also loved my dorming experience. My coach chose my roommate who is one of my teammates and now my best friend. We get along really well and have the perfect amount of similarities and differences that just make us work!

My dorm was Crawford, so I was attached to McElroy and Preska, and it was nice to be able to walk inside to my other friend’s dorm rooms in shorts any time of year!

Choosing a Major

As a freshman I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to study, but I decided to study what my parents thought was a better fit for me. This past school year, I switched to the major I always wanted to study. I honestly feel a little bit rushed and I have to take a lot of summer classes to catch up.

It’s okay if, as a freshman, you are unsure of what you want to do. When you figure it out, definitely make sure it is what YOU want to study. I believe it’s always best to follow your passion.



Helicopter Parenting: Are You Flying In Restricted Air Space?

by AFURE ADAH, CSU PR Student Assistant

Helicopter parents. You may have heard the term but do not know exactly what it means. Essentially, a helicopter parent is one who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.  According to the Huffington Post, whether a parent is tying their second grader’s shoes or helping their college student with an essay, “the bounds of appropriate parental behavior shifts as the child grows.”

An associate psychology professor at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, Holly Schiffrin, argues that “this type of involvement robs children of important lessons.” Most assume that the behavior is only found in middle to upper class parents, but researches at the University of Texas at Austin found that all income levels, ethnicities and genders are represented in the phenomenon (Almendrala).

Although the definition of what it exactly means to be a helicopter parent is still being recognized, “scientists claim the effects of overprotective and neurotic parenting are becoming clear in the newest generation of adults” (Almendrala). Huffington Post conducted an online survey in collaboration with YouGov. This graph shows that the divide, 24% of students saying they have helicopter parents, and 15% of parents saying they are not helicopter parents, suggests that “one person’s loving guidance is another person’s overbearing supervision – and that could be generational” (Almendral).


So, helicopter parents out there, speaking from the viewpoint of a college student, your help is very much appreciated and us students understand your intentions, but you need to allow us to experience things and learn from them on our own. We will be better well-rounded people for it.

I leave you wth five things I personally appreciate from my parents as a well as another five-point list to help describe parental actions that are appreciated and welcomed by the average college student. (Taken from www.grown&

I appreciate when my parents:

  1. Give me career advise
  2. Help me in job and internship searches
  3. Go over my class schedules with me and help me plan my semesters for degree completion
  4. Send me care packages during finals and midterms
  5. Come to my sporting events
  • 1. You are not a helicopter parent if you are worried when your child in college is sick.
  • 2. You are not a helicopter parent if you are trying to help a desperately unhappy new freshman through this rough patch.
  • 3. You are not a helicopter parent if you do your teen’s laundry, make them a meal, run an errand for them or do any number of things (at times) that you know they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves.
  • 4. You are not a helicopter parent if you remind your high school student that they are making decisions now that will impact their future.
  • 5. You are not a helicopter parent if you help your kid, support your kid, offer encouragement and, at times, let them dump their emotional trash on you.

I hope this post finds you all well.


Knowing Your Rights

FERPA Secures Privacy Rights of College Students



I was not aware of all the rights I gained when I started college until I heard about FERPA. I was surprised and relieved at the same time.

Parents and students are used to being able to have access to educational records of students. It is the way that it has always been. However, this right has its limitations.

FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) allows parents to have access to a student’s education records. However, this access only lasts until a student reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.

For parents of college students over 18, this means that parents no longer have the right to view a student’s educational records. Parents can only access educational records if their student chooses to give them permission.

The following parties also have access to a student’s educational records:

  • School officials with legitimate educational interests
  • Other schools to which a student is transferring
  • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes
  • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student
  • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school
  • Accrediting organizations
  • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
  • Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies
  • State and local authorities within a juvenile justice system pursuant to specific State law

Another right that FERPA provides to parents and eligible students is to restrict the disclosure of directory information. Directory information includes a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance.

It is important to note that schools may disclose of directory information without the permission of parents or eligible students. The only obligation of schools is to notify parents and eligible students about directory information. They should be informed in a timely manner in case parents or eligible students choose to opt out of disclosing such information.

FERPA has another right that not everyone is aware of. If records are inaccurate or misleading, parents or eligible students have the right to request the records to be amended. If the school chooses not to amend the records; then parents or eligible students have the right to a formal hearing. If after the hearing the school still chooses not to ament the records; then the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with his/her records on his/her views of the information that was presented at the hearing and requested to be amended.

FERPA was created to protect the privacy of students and anyone who is attending an educational institution is notified annually of FERPA guidelines. Make sure you are aware what your rights are.


For more information on FERPA visit:



The Importance Of A Student Union

What Does ‘House of Serendipity’ Mean?

by LENNY KOUPAL, CSU Communications Coordinator

How important is a student union to a students’ overall college experience?

At the Centennial Student Union at Minnesota State University, Mankato, validating our campus presence through a random student survey is something we do every couple of years. It provides valuable information and a reality check against what we say we do and what students generally and actually think of us.

And the survey says…our 2018 overall results graphically indicate that we are steadily advancing our overall effectiveness. Students further shared that, in 2018, we are ahead of the curve when compared to six national student unions of comparable size and services, reputable “Carnegie Class” institutions as well as all institutions completing surveys in 2018.

Student opinions show overall progressive growth in effectiveness of Centennial Student Union services and programs.

A comprehensive view of the Centennial Student Union shows satisfaction higher than comparative universities across the country.

We can pat ourselves on the back, but we know there’s no resting on our laurels when it comes to our own expectations and, more importantly, our students’ expectations. As student union administrators, we know that college is more than classrooms and textbooks. So much of learning is accomplished outside the classroom – personally, socially and globally. We know that a strong student union presence plays a pivotal role in student success and growth. We know that a student union is more than brick and mortar. To help students, we know that a student union must be a living, evolving culture. It’s pulse must be the pulse of the campus.

Back in 2010, the CSU set out to define that culture by branding itself the “House of Serendipity.” The moniker seeking a place for unexpected discoveries – pleasant surprises – was taken from the words of the late C. Shaw Smith. Along with being a student union director and the former president of the Association of College Unions International, Smith was an accomplished magician.

That may have accounted for his philosophy that a quality student union should be a surprising, life-changing experience. “I like to call the Union the House of Serendipity,” Smith said. “You go for one thing and you get more than you bargained for. It’s inescapable. It gets into your head and into your heart, and you’re never quite the same again. The right Union will change you.” His words have become the mantra behind the mission and vision of the CSU.

Providing our students with a Serendipity experience started with our tagline “offering pleasant surprises ’round every corner.” That literal application morphed a few years later into a philosophical message that helped express the vision of the CSU. Now “offering pleasant surprises that INVITE, INVOLVE and INSPIRE,” the CSU views those three words as a Maslow-style progression of personal growth.

We seek to create an inviting environment where students can find the creature comforts – food, essential services, corners for studying or sleep and, most importantly, social interaction.

Once achieved, that level of comfortability encourages student to get involved. Coming into the CSU could lead to joining a fraternity or sorority, getting involved in student government, writing for the student newspaper or helping to plan homecoming, concerts or campus activities benefitting all students.

Such personal engagement inspires students to spread their wings as they explore and achieve personal confidence and leadership skills that will shape their careers and adult lives.

Along this journey of personal growth, students are supported by the CSU’s core values that seek to engage students along six prime objectives – Leadership, Integrity, Community, Personal Development, Innovation and Celebration.

So how does this all get back to the original question: How important is a student union to a students’ overall college experience?

Retention is such a key focus for Minnesota State Mankato as it is for universities across the country. At the heart of that discussion is the ability for a university to meet a student’s needs and expectations. As the student-centered heart of campus, the CSU sees the student union’s important role in adding broad-based value to the college experience. Sometimes to the surprise of our students.

Recently, the Washington Post offered a perspective from Jim Troha, a private college president who was also the parent of a prospective college student. The article – entitled VALUE MATTERS IN CHOOSING A COLLEGE. BUT NOT JUST THE PRICE KIND – shared Troha’s view of higher education from a different angle. Too often, college administrators size up value along yardsticks that measure scholarships, job-placement rates, graduate school enrollments and students’ marketable skills.

“What I don’t see, however, are people talking about value — and not the way grocery stores do — but value in terms of ideas, aspirations, the kind of person you want to become, the kind of experiences and environments that will bring out the best in you,” Troha said. “The kind of place where you will be surprised by uncovering your potential.”

By looking past price to value based on the culture of a university campus – in our case, a university student union – Troha said parents and students are better equipped to ask deeper questions.

“They realize potential, networks and the long game (so to speak) are of equal if not greater importance than the immediate details of cost comparisons,” he stated.

At Minnesota State Mankato, the goal is for each of us to visualize “Big ideas. Real-world thinking” in every one our students. The Centennial Student Union works to accept that calling by striving to offer a culture of value that pleasantly surprises students into realizing their full potential. Their big idea may be Serendipity of Self where global thinking is shaped through personal experiences that apply leadership, integrity, community, personal development, innovation and celebration. For the CSU, helping students equip themselves with those shared tools will maintain the student union’s important role in a valued and enduring college education.

8 College Hacks

By ALEJANDRO REYES-VEGA, CSU Public Relations Student Assistant

College Hacks to be Successful

Buzzfeed has great articles that have suggestions and ideas to make life easier. Peggy Wang wrote a great article called “36 Life Hacks Ever College Student Should Know” and I chose the ones the ones that I have personally used and found most useful.

1. Getting through lectures

One major difference between high school classes and college classes is lectures. College has a lot more lectures which can sometimes make it hard to get all the information at once. A great way to understand better the lectures is to record them in any mobile device. They can be played faster if you want to go over the information or slower if you want to take notes.

2. Getting a good GPA

Don’t slack in your first few semesters when classes are easier. Make sure to get as many A’s as possible to balance off your GPA once you have to start taking harder classes.

3. Remembering your Schedule

Avoid having your schedule as a loose piece of paper. Try taking a picture of it and having it as your lock screen for the first few weeks. That way you can always know where and when is your next class by simply looking at your phone.

4. Get familiar with what you can do with a mug and a microwave

Getting hungry and don’t want to go to the cafeteria or it’s too late and everything is closed? You can always make yourself quick snacks with a mug and a microwave. Looks up easy recipes and get a dorm made meal.

5. Reading incentives

Getting through heavy reading classes can sometimes be challenging. Try using some type of snack or candy and reward yourself every time you reach the end of a section or unit.

6. Limiting distractions

Download apps in your computer or phone with timers that prevent you from accessing distracting websites. You can also get familiar with the “Do not Disturb” feature in your phones and computers so you can focus without seeing notifications and being tempted.

7. Sample testing

When studying for a test, try looking up sample tests from the same subject. A great way to get focused tests is by typing “site:edu [subject] exam”.

8. Scent memory

Spray on an unfamiliar scent or try a different or weird gum flavor. Before taking the test spray the same scent, you used to study or the same gum. The distinctive scent or flavor will help you jog your memory.

If you wish to see the full article click here.

Managing College Stress

By ALEJANDRO REYES-VEGA, CSU Public Relations Student Assistant

College can be stressful for many students. Some have heavy workloads, while others have to deal with school and work,  and then there are those who just have a hard time adapting to college classes.

Learning to manage stress will not only make you more successful in college but also in life and maybe managing it could prolong it. Everyone has different ways of dealing with their stress and everyone must find what works best for them. Sometimes, I either binge eat or restrict my eating, neither of which are healthy choices. However, over time I found some healthy habits that have helped me manage my day to day stress in a better way.

First and far most get some type of physical activity into your schedule. It can be playing ping-pong, basketball, soccer, running, lifting weights, or just taking a walk around town. Any of these activities help get the mind distracted for a little while, and focus on something else other than school. Moreover, moving around helps get some much-needed physical activity. Most students will discover that they are majorly responsible for their own physical activity.

My second suggestion could be controversial, however, if managed correctly it can be helpful. Videogames can be a great stress reliever. Entering an alternate world, role playing, trying to beat your friends at FIFA, NBA 2k, or other sports games can be a great distraction and help relieve stress. Nevertheless, videogames should be used cautiously since time tends to fly when playing them and responsibilities get lost and forgotten.

My third suggestion is reading books. I know it might not sound appealing, specially to those who are not used to reading, but a good book can be a great distraction. Immersing yourself into the story and letting yourself go. It can be of great help, especially when you seem like the world is about to fall on your shoulders. I know college students are always busy and reading seems like an impossible task, but thirty minutes or an hour of reading can be the sufficient break to get a fresh mindset and be back to your responsibilities and be more efficient.

My fourth suggestion is socializing. In college, classes, homework, projects, studying, reviewing, and work can prevent you from having dinner with friends or just catching up. It is easy to isolate yourself and be buried under the work load. Classes will only get harder as time passes. That is why it is important to learn how to manage your social life along with school.

These are some suggestions that I have discovered work for me. However, everyone is different and it is important to try new things. Stress can be managed by distracting yourself every so often. Hobbies are one of the best ways to do so. I know some people that play instruments while others choose to write computer code. Just make sure to always keep those stress levels in check and keep striving for success.

Parents’ Corner: Ideal Contact

Keeping the Right Amount of Contact

By ALEJANDRO REYES-VEGA, CSU Public Relations Student Assistant

How can you know if students want to be texted or called every day or maybe just once a week? Everyone is different as one must learn to balance between being overbearing or too distant.

When I started in college my mom would text me every day and at first, I thought it was too much. However, I soon got used to it and learned to appreciate her morning jokes and advice. Sometimes, she wanted to call me and I simply said “no” or “I’m too busy”. She also soon learned that I needed space or I didn’t have time to talk. As parents one must respect students because they need to focus on school, socialize, and learn to be independent and discover themselves.

Don’t be afraid to be straightforward. Ask how often they would like to be called or texted and try to respect their wishes. If you are not able to be together for the holidays then try to send something that reminds them of home so they don’t feel abandoned.

Yet, there are small details that always made my day as a freshman. The phone calls and the texts can sometimes be overbearing specially with dealing with the stress of college and being away from home.

Nevertheless, parents can always send a small care-package with snacks or something that a student in college would appreciate. Does not matter if students can find the snacks they want in any nearby store or if the package is home baked goods, if it comes from home they will treasure the package and they will know that they are being cared for.

Navigating Campus 101

By AFURE ADAH, CSU Public Relations Student Assistant

Being able to navigate campus efficiently is a huge part of college life and is especially important for new students. I have found that I have some issues managing my time so I am always rushing, and if you are like me, work smarter, not harder is your go-to phrase!

Also, if you are like me, walking through the Minnesota weather elements is not your favorite thing to do. That being said, I am going to give you some insight on how I navigate campus when I’m behind schedule, rushing around and how I navigate through campus completely indoors.

When I lived in the dorms on campus I felt that I had all the time in the world to get ready for class because everything was so close by. Of course, I found that I was wrong. But still I insisted on waiting those couple extra minutes before getting out of bed to go get ready. I can honestly say though, that I was never late for a class! Keep on reading to see how I achieved this.


If your time management skills are like mine, making cuts is the way to go. As we’ve all learned in math, the FASTEST route from point A to point B is DIAGONAL! Do it! Cut through the grass, no one is going to judge you. If you can lounge on the grass to study, you sure can walk on it too! Cut through buildings. If you are trying to get from the Library to Trafton, don’t walk around Armstrong or Nelson, walk through them. Work smarter, not harder people! This really works, trust me.

Now, in all seriousness, Minnesota weather can be a horrible, confusing mess and sometimes you just don’t want to deal with it. As a freshman in the winter months I remember being outside looking at the buildings and I noticed that many connect. I made it a mission to find these connection points to avoid the cold. I’m going to give you the main highlights of our tunnel system but if you want a full tour you can watch the Serendipitous Moments video linked to this post and be taken on a little tour!


  • There is a lower level “pedestrian walkway” or tunnel that leads from the Maverick Bullpen, to the Library. This is a great tunnel to use if you are trying to get from the CSU to the res halls – or the other way around – with minimal outdoor contact. Once you get out of the tunnel into the library basement, however, you will have a short trip outside to get to the res halls, but it’s better than nothing, trust me.
  • Morris Hall is the center point for the tunnel system. On its second floor its “crossroads” connect to the CSU, Armstrong Hall, and Highland North through hallways/skyways. These connected buildings then branch off to connect to the other buildings on campus.
  • The main level of Highland North connects to Trafton South, while the hallway on its second floor connects to Highland Center and then to the sports complexes.

These are just some quick highlighted points on the campus walkways, tunnels and skyways but definitely check out the linked video for a full tour! I hope my experiences and these tips will help you navigate campus more efficiently no matter what kind of person you are!