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NDSU Serves as ‘Home Away From Home’ for Student Athletes

Think about this: A minute left in the biggest game of your career, you run down the field, shake loose of your defender, look up into the sky through your green face mask and snag down the catch of your life. How did North Dakota State wide receiver RJ Urzendowski manage to do that?

Bison fans were thinking that same question. After all, it’s a lot of stress for a freshman.

Urzendowski is a poised, focused man — that’s how.

“Everything (was) going so fast, it’s pretty easy to stay calm and just focus on what you (have) to do,” Urzendowski said.

And remember, he’s just a freshman. After practice and games, he has to walk back to his dorm room on campus.

He graduated high school from Creighton (Neb.) Preparatory School, over six hours away from Fargo. And he does get home sick once in awhile, to say the least.

Last year, when he arrived for fall camp, he had long days, and when he would get back to his dorm, he would miss his family. But he knew he was always going to see them again soon.

“It’s definitely different going from being with your parents everyday and siblings to just being on your own all of a sudden and being able to do what you want and make your own decisions,” Urzendowski said. “So it’s a transition.”

For Bison student athletes, getting to see your parents even twice a semester can be a treat.

Urzendowski was able to see his parents over Christmas break and a few days during Thanksgiving.

For NDSU softball player Joei Samper, she almost didn’t want to come back to North Dakota after going back to California over holiday breaks.

“The beginning of the school year, I had second thoughts about why did I ever come to North Dakota,” the freshman infielder/outfielder said. “But I know just the people I’m around made it easier, softball distracted me, school distracted me and it just made time go a lot faster.”

Her freshman teammate Tabby Heinz didn’t miss her family as much at the beginning of the school year, but once she went home for Christmas, it hit her.

“I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving, so it was like going home and seeing all my friends, it made me miss it,” the California native infielder said. “Then when I came back, everyone was there for me. They’ve all been through it … you can talk to the coaches about those things, and they are understanding about it so it made it a lot easier.”

NDSU wrestler Tommy Petersen knew attending college while playing a Division I sport was going to be a grind, but it’s what he chose to do.

“It’s a struggle,” the redshirt freshman said. “That’s just what we signed up for.”

Student athletes at NDSU thank their teammates and coaches for being there for them when they are getting down about being miles away from family.

“Just focus on yourself and your teammates, don’t get caught up in all the extra stuff or all the attention,” Urzendowski said. “You just do what you have to do and practice hard, handle your school work and don’t focus on the outside stuff that doesn’t really deal with the team.”

Heinz and Samper said that student athletes have to remember to talk to teammates and coaches about being away from home because they care about everyone.

“Just hearing that (teammates) have been through everything that we are going through right now makes it a lot easier,” Samper said. “I’m actually glad we have an older team because it’s like they have most of the answers to the questions I have. And a lot of them are from California, so they know what we go through, so I know it’s not going to be impossible.”

All in all, Heinz said NDSU is a family within a family and everyone is willing to help everyone else — athlete, student or both.

“When I first decided I wanted to come here, it was because I felt like more of a family, more together than I did at any another school I went to,” Heinz said. “They were always with each other when I came on visits, and they made you feel kind of like at home, it’s like your home away from home.”

“One in every four college students suffers from mental illness.”
The following resources are available at NDSU and in the community:

Free NDSU counseling programs
The Fortitude Project: LGBTQA Support Group
3:30 – 4:50 p.m. Thursdays. A confidential support group for
LGBT students. Provides opportunities for students to discuss and
connect with fellow Bison about self-identification.
Meditation for Stress Management and Improved
3 – 4 p.m. Mondays. Since 2001, this group of students, faculty
and staff practices mindful meditation. All are welcome; weekly
attendance is not mandatory.
Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Support Group
2 – 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays. Open for any NDSU student concerned
with substance abuse or dependence.
Graduate Student Support Group
12 – 1:30 p.m. Friday. Provides a setting for graduate students
to meet and connect with their peers.
Mental health institutions in North Dakota
North Dakota State Counseling Center: 212 Ceres Hall.
(701) 231-7671.
“(P)rovides a confidential setting in which students may explore
concerns of a personal, academic or career-related nature; makes
referrals; and serves as consultants,” NDSU Counseling Center
website reads. The service is included in student fees.
Prairie St. John’s: 510 Fourth St. S. (877) 333-9565. prairiestjohns.
Since 1997, Prairie St. John’s has served the Fargo-Moorhead
community. The fully licensed and accredited facility serves all
patients suffering from mental health issues, chemical dependency
addition or co-occurring disorders.
Sanford Behavioral Health: 100 Fourth St. S. (701) 234-
Offering behavioral health, counseling, psychiatry and
psychology, Sanford Health provides varieties of “therapeutic
strategies to reduce symptoms, improve life skills and help people
regain control of their lives,” its website reads.
North Dakota Suicide Prevention Program: 600 East
Blvd. Ave., Dept. 301, Bismarck. (800) 273-8255.
Suicide is the eighth-leading cause of death in North Dakota. The
hotline listed above is available at any time for those thinking of
committing suicide.
Neuropsychiatric Research Institute:700 First Ave. S.
(701) 293-1335.
NRI is home to the Eating Disorders Institute, which “offers
state-of-the-art therapies to treat anorexia nervosa, bulimia
nervosa and obesity,” its website reads.
Dacotah Foundation:
112 N. University Dr. Suite 230. (701) 364-0743
The non-profit organization’s mission statement reads,
“To provide a system of care that enhances the quality of life
for children and adults with mental illness and/or chemical
Further resources A national non-profit mental illness
advocacy organization for anxiety and depression The International OCD Foundation helps individuals
overcome their disorder The Mental Health America of North Dakota website An online resource for college-related mental
health questions

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