With a few months of your first year of college behind you, you may feel like you’ve already started to find a place for yourself. Now free to make many of your own decisions, you might embrace your newfound independence and thrive on it. However, you may also begin to miss seeing your loved ones every day, or living in the same place you have lived your entire life, and that’s when homesickness can start to kick in.
Even though I’m a sophomore and am in love with my university, there are times when I would love nothing more than to be in my old house again. After all, being three hours away from my family means that I miss out on some birthdays and holidays, I don’t have my parents and sister right there when I need their expert opinions, and I am absent for a lot of those you-had-to-be-there moments. However, as important as those things are to me, I do realize how much I benefit from the college experience, and how much I truly love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
For those of you struggling with homesickness, here’s a fresh perspective on how to banish any negativity that comes your way. — Tweet this!
The Freshman 15: Overcoming Homesickness
1. Stay connected.
Regardless of how many state lines or oceans separate you from your friends and family, you can still keep in touch easily. Whether you prefer Facebook or face-to-face video chats, you have countless options for communicating with others long-distance, so long as you have access to a computer. Of course, there’s always the telephone (for those of us who feel alienated by social media at times), but it’s good not to just avoid your loved ones simply because you’re away from home. Allow yourself to miss them, and allow yourself to continue fostering those relationships.
2. Make your new place your home.
It doesn’t matter if you live in a tiny jail cell dorm room or a luxurious apartment — you can still personalize your new living space so that it works for you. Coming home to a room that you’ve structured to match your personality and preferences will make you feel much more at home than merely staring at the empty cinderblock walls all day. For tips on how to properly stock and decorate, click here.
3. Set goals.
College is the best time for self-improvement and growth, so why not focus on that for a while? Attending workshops and listening to guest speakers you admire will keep your mind off of your loneliness and boredom and more focused on achieving something new. At the very least, setting goals and working to achieve them will help you to better yourself for future employers and relationships.
4. Meet with friends from home.
For some of us, this may not be feasible, but for those who attend state universities with others they went to high school with, or who have known a lot of people in the surrounding area, it can be good to reunite with those people on occasion. Of course, it is important to spread your horizons, but reminiscing with old friends from time to time can be perfectly harmless as long as you don’t dwell on the past completely.
5. Get involved on campus.
It makes perfect sense: if you’re busy with clubs and sports and other activities, you have more time to make friends, bolster your resume and have fun — and less time to think about what you’re missing back home. Faculty and students at all different universities agree that student involvement is one of the most important things one can do to have a meaningful college experience.
6. Embrace your new geography.
Learn about everything your new location has to offer! If you’re in a city, it’s easy to find interesting things to do and attractions to check out, but even if you’re in a college town, you can locate something exciting nearby. Getting to know your new zip code can help you to form a greater connection to it, and it can give you something to be proud of.
7. Don’t forget snail mail!
Write letters to your friends and family, and memorize your new P.O. Box number and address so that you can start to receive mail there as well! I know it sounds cheesy, but when I have letters from home awaiting me in my mailbox, I can’t help but smile. It makes me think of the days when I will have my own house and receive holiday cards and letters there each year, and it gives me more of a reason to call my community home. Plus, how can you feel lonely when you have something waiting for you in your mailbox?
8. Form your own support network.
Having others to talk to and spend time with is vital if you want to have a positive college experience. Whether you need advice on a particular subject or you just want someone to accompany you to the grocery store, having close friends can make college feel much less intimidating. My friends and I have formed somewhat of a second family, and without them, I don’t know how I would get by. It’s important to be open to meeting new people, and don’t be afraid to lean on them when you need to.
9. Help others.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do to forget your woes is to assist others in conquering theirs. When I first started my fall semester of freshman year, I often wound up with practically the entire class of 2013 at my door, looking for something to do. Although it was sometimes overwhelming to play hostess to all those people, baking lots of break-and-bake cookies and serving all of my water and tea in Solo cups, I was also grateful to know that I had made others’ lives just a little easier and a little more entertaining. While you should never let others take advantage of you, you should be willing to occasionally assist others who may be just as homesick as you are.
10. Get out of your room.
This tends to be my main advice for a lot of things (making friends, getting involved, etc.) but it still rings true no matter how many times I say it. The more exposure you have to the rest of campus and all of the events it has to offer, the less time you have to wallow in self-pity and think about how much you miss your home life.
11. Bring in traditions from home.
Chances are, you will spend plenty of holidays at school, so why not make the most of them? Introduce your friends to some of your at-home customs, and allow them to chip in as well. In the meantime, it’s likely that you will develop your own traditions that you will pass on over the next four years. Christmukkah with my friends last year was a great success (and a great way to begin our finals week), and I’m positive that it will be even better this year!
12. Find your outlet.
Do whatever it is that you do to overcome other forms of stress. Create art. Go for a run. Take pictures of the things you see. Play your guitar. Meditate. Write a blog (and then send me the link!) and find something that allows you to release whatever tension you have. This will help you in more ways than just this one, but having that one thing that allows you to let your mind go will also help you in overcoming any stress you may feel from homesickness as well.
13. Make a list.
Sometimes it’s good to have something written down — then you’ve got your tangible evidence of what makes life at school so great. Keep a list of what you love about your new place, and remind yourself of everything it has to offer. Having to experience these things away from home is just another part of the growing process.
14. Remember why you’re here.
You are in college to obtain an education (or to meet someone rich enough to marry… har, har). Ultimately there are many perks to being in college, but in order to experience those perks, you need to accept the challenges that come with. Being on your own is one of those challenges, but if you know that you can get past it, you will be able to improve yourself in more ways than you could have ever imagined.
15. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If things are getting to be too much and it’s starting to affect your grades or health, then you may want to speak with a counselor. Many schools offer counseling services for a variety of issues, many of which are extremely common to college students. A professional may have more ideas (for free!) that will help you to better adjust to college life and to not let your homesickness debilitate you. 🙂
College is definitely a time for transition and change. How have you dealt with those changes?