College of Education > News and Publications > News: Oct. - Dec. 2010 > The Importance of Knowing One's Self

The Importance of Knowing One's Self

Astrid Edens is a Penn State student and counseling psychology doctoral candidate in the College of Education.

by Adam Hauptman (December 2010)

Astrid_Edens.jpgDoctoral candidate Astrid Edens had a more unusual childhood than most.

She was born in Belgium while her parents were taking extensive travels throughout Europe. When she reached age two, she and her mother moved to Abu Dhabi, where her grandparents were teaching at the American Community School. She stayed there the next six years before moving to the United States, a place her family has called home for generations. However, her family had believed in exposing each new generation to life abroad, living in places like Ghana, Libya, and Norway for extended periods of time. Her diverse experiences gave her a view of “home” and a self-identity more complex than that of the typical child.

Astrid’s experience required that she grow to understand the complexities of handling several senses of citizenship at a young age. It also meant she had the opportunity to develop a more well-rounded and accurate view of human diversity than many Americans, many of whom spend their youth in one area, surrounded by people of similar identities to their own. The experience has played a large part in the creation of her personal identity and has cultivated her affinity for the spiritual nature of knowing one’s self.

"Knowing one's self," she says, "is the strongest form of connectivity to the world around us."

Astrid attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to obtain bachelor’s degrees in both psychology and Spanish, and then went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for her masters degree in counseling with a community focus.

Now Astrid is in her third year of a Ph.D. program in counseling psychology in the College of Education. It is her hope that her doctorate, life experiences, and strong focus on social justice will allow her to assist others to draw from their own inner-strengths and from the context of their own lives. For Astrid, this is necessary in order to solidify improved senses of self. Additionally, she wishes to instill in them the desire to open their minds to new experiences and the ability to change with their surroundings when faced with feelings of being stuck on one life path.

When it comes to education and mental health, Astrid discusses the importance of treating people based on their own needs and characteristics versus using one-size-fits-all models.

This especially holds true for working with people in an education or counseling environment, where, she says, "People’s life trajectories can be critically impacted by teacher and counselor interventions, because without individualized care based on specific needs and qualities, clients will not receive the customized care that can provide them the highest level of benefit."

Astrid is ever-vigilant about the importance of re-examining one’s own life from other angles. She hopes that people will remain open to using critical thinking to actively question what they believe they know about diversity as well as about themselves because in life there is always more than meets the eye, and because even the most homogeneous of places can be teeming with personal diversity.




The Penn State College of Education serves approximately 2,800 undergraduate and 1,200 graduate students each year. The College prepares administrators, counselors, psychologists and researchers, as well as K-12 teachers in 21 different specialty areas. Nearly all of the College of Education graduate programs that are ranked by the U.S. News & World Report appear at least in the top 20, with six programs in the top ten. The College is known nationally for its education research and outreach, housing such centers as the Center for the Study of Higher Education, the Center for Science and the Schools, the Mid-Atlantic Center for Mathematics Teaching and Learning, and the Regional Education Laboratory Mid-Atlantic.

For more information on Penn State's College of Education, contact, call 814-863-2216, or visit