So here you are, at CSB or SJU. You’ve been looking forward to moving, to new freedom and responsibilities, to new people and classes. And suddenly you’re feeling sad and anxious. This isn’t how you planned it. Admitting it might be hard when others seem to be so happy and together, but you’re feeling homesick. How lame!
But guess what? You’re not alone. Some of the smiling students you see on campus are actually feeling homesick, too“IT’S LIKE BEING BETWEEN TRAPEZES”
Almost everybody feels homesick at some time. Adults encounter it when they move to new cities or jobs. Homesickness is one of the most common adjustment problems experienced by new college students. They are often surprised to discover how intensely they miss home, and they struggle to cope with the resulting emotions.
These emotions are caused by two basic experiences:
- Losing what is familiar, comfortable, and predictable (e.g., people, places, routines, things)
- Adjusting to a new environment (with its own people, places, routines, and things)
Even when we have chosen to move to a new place, we may feel homesick. We must still adjust to new surroundings, so we may grieve the loss of the familiar, feel insecure without our usual sources of support, and find it difficult to function as usual. In essence, while we have physically left home, it may take more time to adjust emotionally. Humans naturally tend to resist change and struggle to hold on to familiar surroundings.
Some believe that homesickness is primarily about adapting to new relationships. One person describes it this way: “Suddenly, you find that instead of being a central person in a small unit with plenty of peripheral activities and friends, you have become an anonymous member of a four thousand plus community where you don’t know anyone. You feel shaken and lonely, and you long for the secure and the familiar. Sometimes these emotions are completely overwhelming. Tasks that would normally have been easy can suddenly seem quite a challenge, or even feel impossible without your usual framework of support.”
It is important to realize that homesickness is a normal process. It is a time of change and a natural response to loss and adjustment. It doesn’t in any way mean that we are inadequate or immature.
In fact, it can be viewed as a positive emotion, because it suggests that we are connected to a familiar and comforting place, to friends, and to family.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF HOMESICKNESS?
Feeling “homesick” may include:
- Feeling sad, lonely, insecure, or as though we don’t belong
- Feeling unusually anxious or upset about things
- Being unable to get into a comfortable routine
- Often thinking about people at home
- Wanting to leave school and return home
- Feeling generally depressed and/or anxious
- Minor physical ailments
TOP 12 WAYS TO COPE WITH IT
- Admit it
Admit and accept that you are homesick. Try not to bury the feeling. Don’t drink more, party more, or have sex just to make the feelings go away. Allow yourself to feel sad, to have a good cry.
Walk around. Get to know the CSB/SJU campuses and the surrounding community. When you discover some fun places and activities, you may feel more comfortable and in control of your situation.
- Get involved
Consider the things you like to do and explore what student activities and organizations are available to you. Your residence hall is often a good place to start. Attend campus events. Getting involved will immerse you in college life, help you make new friends, and reduce your time to be homesick. It might feel difficult, but many other students will be doing the same thing.
- Keep familiar things
Soften the shock of your new environment by having items from home in your residence. Familiar things such as pictures and favorite possessions can help you feel more comfortable while you adjust.
- Have realistic expectations
Try not to expect yourself to be perfectly adjusted, organized, popular, or dressed. Recognize that you’re learning, and have a sense of humor about your challenges and mistakes.
- Be open
The more open you are to NEW things, the less you might miss PAST things. Be open to exploring new situations, opportunities, people, classes, and choices. Try to avoid comparing your new environment to home ~ they’re different. It might be scary to face so many new things, but they will provide opportunities to meet new friends.
Getting involved with others and making friends is a key way to reduce homesickness. Inviting roommates, classmates, and neighbors to explore with you can initiate new connections, as can responding to the invitations of others.
- Keep in touch
Stay in contact with friends and family. Share your new experiences with them, as well as the fact that you miss them and your home life. Decide whether it’s best for you to have more frequent contact with home (because it helps you feel better) or less contact (because it makes you feel worse).
- Plan a visit home
Knowing that you’ll be going home at a specific time may be comforting and allow you to invest in campus life. While going home can be relaxing and help ease the transition, doing so too often may result in constant readjustment and feeling worse.
- Take care of yourself
Get enough food, sleep, and exercise. These are important for both physical and emotional well-being. Do things that you enjoy. Try to establish a routine as soon as possible. Create a balance between work and leisure.
- Talk about it
It can help to talk about feelings of homesickness with a roommate, friend, RA, RD, family member, or counselor. You’ll find that you’re surrounded by a lot of support. You may also discover that others have similar feelings. It’s a sign of strength to accept and talk about what is troubling you.
- Give it time
Overcoming homesickness is a gradual process for most people. Realize that adapting to a new situation is difficult and takes time. Let yourself ease into it, and college will eventually feel like your home away from home. However, if your homesickness persists and interferes with your academic performance, relationships, or general functioning and well-being, consider talking with a counselor.
Sources: The College Chalkboard; YouthNet UK; and University of New England, Australia