Wayne State University

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Counselors help international students navigate their new world

January 28, 2016

No matter what continent a college student calls home, concerns that crop up on campus are universal.

Every student has a period of adjustment and faces some level of separation anxiety, but an international student’s situation varies because they are adapting to a new culture, too, says Aleksandra Stoklosa (right) of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

“International students studying here in the United States also have a great deal of pressure to succeed because their families have put their life savings into the student’s schooling or they have received a government scholarship,” says Stoklosa.

Two scenarios emerge, she says.  Students become insular, focusing only on their studies and thus miss opportunities meant to enhance the college experience, or they are swept away with the freedom of being on their own, and neglect their studies.

Either way, personal conflict easily escalates without a network of support from family, roommates, resident advisors or counselors. Students, especially those who are thousands of miles away from the people they would turn to for advice, are sometimes hesitant or unsure about where to find a confidante.

Stoklosa helps students explore where they see themselves in their new environment and what they want for themselves.  Group and one-on-one sessions are available.  Having immigrated to the United States in high school, she has a unique understanding of the international student’s experience.

The CAPS staff has tripled since 2009 to include 11 licensed full-time counselors plus clinical interns, all of whom are available at no charge to students. Stoklosa says the stigma of ‘needing’ a counselor remains the biggest challenge, despite the fact that requests for services have quadrupled over the last six years.   

“Issues are the same, the demand is growing, and we have more resources to help students with issues and concerns,” says Stoklosa.

In an effort to familiarize the university community with its services, CAPS staff attends new student orientation sessions, works with Housing staff and organizes workshops to provide students with tips and strategies for personal success, and to help dispel misconceptions about counseling. 

“Sometimes it is easier for a student to seek help when they recognize who provides it,” says Stoklosa.

CAPS is located in Suite 552 of the Student Center.  For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 313-577-3398.