Starting your freshman year of college can be very exciting, but once Mom and Dad drive away, many students feel overwhelmed and homesick. At the same time that students are confronted with academic and social challenges, the support system they have known their whole lives is under a different roof.
People who are homesick often feel sad or nervous during times when they are away from the things that are familiar for them. Even though they want to have a good time, they find it hard to have fun because feel stressed and upset. They miss all of the things that they usually have around them that help make them feel safe and comfortable. In some cases, homesickness can even feel like a physical pain, such as a headache or stomach ache.
The good news is that there are a lot of things that you can do to prevent and treat homesickness. What’s the best way to deal with homesickness? Here are some ideas:
- Allow yourself to feel homesick. Some students may not want to admit how much they miss home. They may perceive their feelings as immature and get angry at themselves. If you feel homesick, give yourself a break and understand that your feelings are normal and not immature. No matter how old people get, major life changes can be very difficult, and you are going through a major life change.
- Keep busy. Throw yourself into college life and you’ll find yourself missing home less. Finding things to keep you busy won’t be hard to do! Take part in campus events. Get off to a good start in your classes. Find out what kinds of student activities are available and attend some meetings. Explore the neighborhood or city with a roommate or friend.
- Make friends. College campuses can be very lonely places if you don’t know anyone. It may take a while for you to meet people you truly bond with, but in the meantime, make an effort to get to know as many people as you can. Take the time to explore campus activities until you find one that clicks. Strike up conversations with other students in your residence hall and classes.
- Get off to a good start with your roommate. You don’t have to be best friends, but you’ll feel a whole lot more at home in your room if you two get along.
- Communicate (in moderation) with your family. Your family hasn’t left your life. Skype, call, text, and email them and talk about how you are feeling. Remember, being a parent of a college freshman can be an emotionally difficult experience as well. At the same time, though, don’t use your family as a crutch. Keep in touch, but move on with your new life as well. A visit home can help with homesickness, but don’t go home too often or you will have trouble integrating into your new life.
- Talk to your resident assistant. Every dorm floor has a student in charge who can help students get adjusted to college. If you feel overwhelmed, stop by for a chat.
- If needed, talk to a counselor. If homesickness is making it difficult for you to function in college, or if you are suffering from depression or anxiety, take advantage of the mental health facilities on your campus. Homesickness is a very common problem, and college counselors know how to help.
- Decorate. If your room is cozy and comfortable, it will feel more like home.
- Avoid rash decisions. When people are depressed or overwhelmed, they sometimes make big decisions that are unwise. This is not the time to drop out, transfer to a different school, end a long term relationship, or anything else of major consequence. Wait until you are feeling better before you make life changing decisions.
- Give yourself time. It may take a week, a semester, or even more before you stop feeling homesick. It takes time to adjust to major life changes like this one. Hang in there!