By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend
Penn State Behrend welcomed 1,280 new first-year students to campus last week.
For 28 of them, the setting felt more than a little familiar, since they had only recently completed a Summer Bridge Program to ease the transition to college.
The six-week program is designed for students who want to sharpen their study, notetaking, critical reading and time management skills, among others.
“I feel so much more comfortable now. This has just been great to meet new people and learn how to get around campus,” said Joseph Lombardo, a first-year History major from Erie.
The program even included a scavenger hunt in which students learned how to navigate campus by finding places and objects. They also spent time learning about the college’s numerous resources such as the Academic and Career Planning Center and Lilley Library.
“Transition is key. There is such a disconnect from what students did in high school to what they will do here,” said Mary Connerty, a lecturer in English who taught the program.
The program was sponsored by the college’s Office of Student Success and Retention. Half of the program’s attendees were immigrants or refugees.
“We’re obligated to help prepare these students who may need the extra help to succeed,” Connerty said.
To get students accustomed to a college workload, participants in the program received weekly homework assignments, including regular critical readings and a requirement to write multiple-page papers. Connerty estimates that each week’s assignments took students a minimum of three to four hours to complete.
That type of workload can be daunting for any first-year student, but it was also helpful for these students to become aware of college expectations.
Sujata Chhetri, a first-year International Business major, estimated that on a scale of 1-10, her nervousness about college was a 9. She says that after completing the Summer Bridge Program, that number was down to a manageable 5.
“It was a great program,” said Chhetri, a Nepal native who immigrated to Erie. “It really taught me about the workload I’ll be getting. It was somewhat overwhelming, but it also taught me about all of the resources I have that I didn’t know that I have. I don’t feel lost anymore.”
If she or any of the other attendees do happen to feel lost, the good news is that they now know where to go.
“There’s always someone you can go to talk to,” Chhetri said. “I’ve already found so many people who are going to help me with my math.”