Nestled in a corner of the Erb Memorial Union is the warm and inviting Duck Nest Wellness Center.
Students are greeted at the front desk with a reassuring smile and friendly advice to make themselves a cup of tea and feel at home.
The open floor plan resembles a living room with ample seating, low volume acoustic Spanish music in the background and a touch screen television playing rolling footage of lush green countryside.
Brittney Effros, a peer wellness advocate, volunteers at the Duck Nest for two hours every Tuesday.
“I get to sit in the space and talk to every student that walks in,” Effros said. “Sometimes it’s a quick ‘hey, how are you?’ chat… other times it’s sitting with someone for thirty minutes to talk about managing social anxiety.”
Students visit the Duck Nest for its safe space to de-stress and color pictures, relax in front of sun lamps or to participate in weekly and rotating workshops aimed at teaching students coping techniques to promote mental health while also practicing awareness and being supportive of others and their struggles.
One workshop taught students how to de-stress through aromatherapy in ‘This is What Relaxation Smells Like’ on Nov. 28. The University Health Center—Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine—gave students instructions on how to take their experience home with them and recreate their favorite oils.
Along with introducing students to new outlets for coping with stress, the Duck Nest offers a range of workshops meant to remedy mental roadblocks college students often face when away from home.
A roadblock some out of state students face during the winter months is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which the Duck Nest hosted a workshop for on Nov. 16, helping students learn how to identify symptoms of depression and how to cope.
However, for those students unfazed by the weather but still missing home, the Duck Nest hosted a workshop called ‘How to Stay When You’re Ready to Leave: Managing Homesickness’ presented by the University Counseling and Testing Center on Nov. 30.
Peer Wellness Coordinator Hanaa Mohammed commented that workshop turnout can be random.
“If a topic is stigmatized in society then people will be hesitant to come,” Mohammed said.
For instance, although amongst college freshmen feelings of homesickness are common, some students are hesitant to attend workshops or tell close friends because of the stigma that homesickness has in society.
Three students trickled into the Duck Nest for the homesickness workshop presented by Derrick Bines, education and prevention outreach graduate employee. He started the workshop with introductions from the group.
All three students attended to earn extra credit for J387 Media History by participating in the interactive workshop on the symptoms of homesickness, how to cope and how to support friends or peers that are affected by homesickness.
Although Jusleen Bhatti, sophomore, didn’t attend the workshop, she agreed her friends’ support definitely helped her situation when she utilized on-campus counseling for homesickness during her freshman year.
These workshops are not only meant to educate students about coping techniques but to raise awareness and lessen the stigma of homesickness, depression and other mental health issues.
Mohammed was drawn to the Duck Nest because she noticed the lack of awareness for public health and social issues within her computer and information science major.
“When the opportunity came to be a part of the Duck Nest I took it so I could learn more and hopefully share what I learn,” Mohammed said.