Your first few weeks on campus are likely to be a whirlwind of frenzied activity – finding your way to your classes, figuring out what’s actually edible in the dining hall, standing in a slew of mile-long lines, and scoping out your new roommates. Even if you feel a few pangs of homesickness during this honeymoon period, you’re bound to be too busy to be let it get you down much.
But after you’ve begun to settle into your schedule and the novelty of life on campus begins to wear off a bit, it’s likely that you’ll start to miss all you’ve left behind back home. Whether you’re missing a boyfriend or girlfriend, your circle of lifelong BFFs, or your mom’s home cooking, the emotional roller coaster of homesickness can be an unpleasant shock.
The feeling of loss that comes with first-year homesickness is often exacerbated by the fact that it takes most freshmen a few months to find their footing socially. When you haven’t been able to connect with new friends on campus, your sense of regret at leaving your hometown pals behind can be magnified even more. In some cases, the cycle of homesickness and loneliness can even send first-year students tumbling into depression.
If you’re a first-year student who has been feeling a bit homesick, you’re not alone – not by a long shot. In fact, campus mental health professionals cite homesickness as one of the leading reasons freshmen visit their campus counseling centers. Here are some tips to help you get over the hump of first-year homesickness.
*Keep in touch…but don’t overdo it. In this day and age, there’s just no excuse for falling out of contact with your friends and family members back home. Teach your grandparents how to use email, and sync your cell phone’s unlimited long-distance plan with your best friend who wound up at a college on the opposite side of the country. If you find yourself playing a never-ending game of phone tag with your busy friends back home, try to set up a regular weekly schedule to connect and chat. Just try not to focus so much on your friends back home that you take attention away from your new campus social life.
*Surround yourself with souvenirs and mementos. Missing your hometown and the friends and family you left behind? It’s perfectly healthy to want to immerse yourself in the familiar sights, sounds, and memories of home, especially during your first year on campus. Set up a special bulletin board dedicated to pictures and keepsakes from back home, or devote an out-of-the-way corner of your dorm room to hometown souvenirs. If you didn’t bring anything meaningful with you when you moved on campus, request a special care package of mementos from your parents or a friend back home.
*Get involved. Researchers have discovered that there’s a significant relationship between social isolation and homesickness among college students. Although it’s not clear whether one of these two problems actually causes the other, it has been shown that students who are lonely are more likely to experience homesickness, and vice versa. If you’ve been having a hard time adjusting to your new environment and you’re really missing your friends and family back home, make a special effort to try to reach out and get involved. It can be hard to make new friends in an unfamiliar place, but luckily, most college campuses offer hundreds of clubs and activities to catering to virtually every interest you can imagine. Explore what’s available at your school – you’re bound to find something that suits you.
*Don’t drop out; instead, talk it out. When you’re mired in the depths of a severe bout of homesickness, it can be tempting to just drop everything and make a beeline for the first bus back home. Before you make any rash decisions, make an appointment with a counselor or another qualified helping professional and get some impartial advice from an expert. Often, there are deeper issues lurking behind your homesickness that you might not be able to recognize on your own. A counselor will be able to key in to the specifics of your unique situation and offer personalized solutions that will work for you.
Are you worried that homesickness might be a problem once you hit campus? If you’re already in college, how did you get over the loneliness and isolation of the first few months on campus? Tell us all about it in the comments.
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