There is no doubt about it, you are living in exciting times! Starting college, leaving home, moving to a new city, being independent. It doesn’t get better than this! Right?
But come Sunday night, or any night for that matter or even during the day, you start to miss home, mom, “your” bed, “your” room, “your” friends.
Question: What is wrong with you?
Answer: Absolutely nothing! “Homesickness” is a normal part of college student development. Being away from home for the first time, adjusting to college life and the workload, having to set up a new daily routine are all stressful changes. The good news is that there are ways of coping with homesickness and settling in to your new life.
What is “Homesickness”?:
On the most basic level, homesickness is thoughts and feelings about home, which generally exist along a continuum i.e. it isn’t a matter of being totally homesick or not at all, rather it’s about degrees: mild, medium, severe.
Homesickness isn’t actually about missing home but rather missing what is “normal” and “comfortable” to you – what you are used to and familiar with. Basically, homesickness is a longing for the familiar.
How to Get Over Homesickness:
The following tips and methods will help you deal with those homesick pangs: Understand and accept that it is normal
An important step in overcoming your homesickness is accepting that what you are feeling is normal, in fact chances are that most of your fellow students who are also living away from home are feeling varying degrees of homesickness too.
By acknowledging and accepting your homesickness you can start working on getting through the adjustment period and creating new, familiar and comfortable routines.
Work on making the unfamiliar, familiar
As already mentioned, a big part of homesickness has to do with being uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. The only way to deal with this is to work on making the unfamiliar, familiar. Get to know your college campus, the surrounding area, the neighbourhood you live in. Find quiet spots were you can sit between classes instead of always heading for the library or computer lab, figure out which little cafe or shop offers the best deals on slap chips or chicken wings. The more you start to make and feel that your campus, your home, your neighbourhood belongs to you, the more comfortable you are going to start feeling.
Be with people. You probably don’t know many people yet or those that you have met you are not particular close to but the point is having people around and not isolating yourself. Some things you may want to try include: eating your meals or watching tv with others, catching a taxi to or from campus together, walking together to the shops.
Making friends doesn’t come naturally to all people, but with practice you will become more relaxed. Also remember that strong friendships don’t develop overnight, so take your time to meet and get to know new people.
Don’t be afraid to be alone
Whether or not you have friends to spend time with, it’s also important to have some alone time during which you can pursue or start new hobbies. Some activities you may want to consider include: exercising, reading, crafts, listening to music, volunteering.
The aim is to strike a balance between having alone time, spending time with friends and studying. Too much of any of these is not a good thing.
Again, it’s all about balance. It is important for you to maintain your relationships with your family and friends back home, this will help with missing them less. By “touching base” with your family and friends you will feel connected and not as if everyone back home has moved on without you.
With cell phones, e-mail, SMS, Skype, FaceTime, Whatsapp, WeChat etc. it’s easy to keep in touch with those you love either on a daily basis or at lease a few times a week.
Give yourself time to deal with your homesickness but do not allow it to consume you, this is a period of adjustment that you will get through. Try stay positive, set yourself small, realistic goals and remember not to confuse being alone with being lonely.
What if it’s More than Just Being Homesick?:
It’s rare for homesickness to develop into something more serious, but you know yourself better than anyone else. If you are having serious difficulties with adjusting you need to ask for help, don’t keep it to yourself. Signs you should be aware of include:
- excessive use of alcohol or food*
- excessive tv, internet or video game use*
- inability to do what needs to be done i.e. attend lectures, attend to personal hygiene
- persistent crying
* Remember that these activities are normal, it is the excessive use that may be of concern.
Kolade, L. (2015). How to Deal with Homesickness Freshman Year. Retrieved from: http://www.hercampus.com/high-school/how-deal-homesickness-freshman-year [Accessed on: 22 January, 2016].
How to Cope with Homesickness. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://counseling.uoregon.edu/TopicsResources/StudentSelf-Help/Transitions/HowtoCopewithHomesickness.aspx [Accessed on: 22 January 2016].