As a first-year student, you may be surprised when homesickness first hits you. In fact, you may not even know what is wrong with you exactly, just that you feel tearful and uneasy. It’s not uncommon at all for incoming freshmen to experience homesickness. While some students adjust just fine, others may find it unbearable. Understanding a little more about it and adopting some coping strategies can help.
In this article, we will talk about preparing for being homesick in college and what you can do to ease your discomfort.
Homesickness Is Usually Unexpected
You’ve likely been so busy over the past few years preparing to get to college that it never occurred to you that you would miss home so much. You unexpectedly find yourself emotional and sad about all the new changes you are enduring and feel out of sorts about many things.
You find yourself wishing you were on your comfy couch petting the family dog and watching your brothers play video games instead of going to sleep in an unfamiliar place miles from home. The feeling may be so strong it is nearly intolerable. In short, you’re homesick.
What is Homesickness?
Believe it or not, if you are experiencing homesickness, you are among millions of those who have gone before you throughout history. In fact, the experience is so prevalent it was spoken about by Hippocrates as early as 460 BC
It is common for those away from their families and culture to experience depression and anxiety related to that separation. This is true no matter where you are from or how far away you are from what is familiar to you.
It’s vital to realize that being homesick is a healthy state of being human, so you shouldn’t feel bad about it. If your fellow students don’t appear to be suffering from the same issue, that’s OK. Talk to your RA, who will be able to regale you with plenty of instances of homesick students and how they overcame it.
Understand That Homesickness Is Actually Not a Sickness but a Healthy Response
While writing this article, we called upon a couple now in their 50’s to give us some insight into the phenomenon of homesickness. The Glickman’s met under circumstances where each was far from home in the early ’90s, but their experience illustrates how different personalities react to being away from familiar surroundings.
For Nancy Glickman, the homesickness she experienced even as a child going to summer camp was profound. And later, when she accompanied her husband out of state to where he was stationed in the Army, the experience of being away from home was challenging. “I felt as though my heart was always breaking, and I could not form attachments in my new town. Everything felt so strange and unfamiliar. It was devastating to me,” said Nancy.
Her husband, on the other hand, had this to say about his experiences away from home: “The happiest times of my childhood were those when I went away to summer camp. Spending the summer with other children and adults who would not hurt me allowed me the freedom to be a happy kid and have a break from the violence and unhappiness I typically faced at home. When I was finally old enough to join the Army, I went to college overseas and loved every minute of it. my travels all over the world left me better than I would have been had I stayed at home.”
This couple, married for nearly thirty years, has diametrically opposed views of being away from home.
Why Being Homesick Is a Good Thing
If you are feeling unhappy, consider Nancy’s example. She grew up in a family where she was happy, loved, and supported. Therefore, anyplace she went felt unfamiliar and harsh compared to her loving environment. If this sounds like you, be grateful that your background has left you with the privilege of belonging to family and friends that care and that you have likely been raised in normal circumstances. Otherwise, what would there be to miss?
So at the very least, if you feel lost at sea without your familiar loved ones and circumstances around you, be pleased you have formed such beloved attachments and good memories. Many of your fellow students will not have experienced this privilege.
Feel Your Feelings
Instead of trying to push your sad feelings away, let yourself feel them. This normal human emotion is meant to be experienced and not suppressed and can be an excellent catalyst for improving your future relationships.
For example, you may realize acutely that your Mom did much more from you than you ever gave her credit for, and you feel bad. Why not send her a beautiful letter letting her know how much you appreciate her and tell her how much she is missed? We can assure you a heartfelt message to your Mom is one of the greatest gifts you will ever give her and can serve you well in helping you feel less lonely.
Be Good to Yourself
You have been through a lot of changes, so in addition to understanding your feelings are normal and expected, care for yourself kindly. Get plenty of rest. If you need a good cry, have at it. Make a meal you would typically have at home, watch a favorite family movie, or call your little brother and share some funny stories about your first week at school. Whatever you do, don’t judge yourself for feeling different than your fellow students. Plenty of them are just as homesick, and they are not letting on.
Initially, it can be hard to involve yourself in new activities, but finding something you enjoy will be a great comfort. Try to choose something that you love that reminds you of home, or that provides emotional support in some way. If you miss your pets at home, volunteer to walk dogs at the local animal shelter. If you want to make a surprise for your parents, join a quilting or knitting club and embark on a project to gift them with on your first visit home. Anything that brings you comfort yet is productive can help.
Know That Homesickness Won’t Last Forever
It’s vital to realize that these negative feelings have an end, and they won’t last forever. Although you may still always feel a pang of sadness here and there, the intensity of these emotions will dissipate as you grow accustomed to your new surroundings. Be patient with yourself and know that you are a human being. Be thankful that you have so much to love that you have much to miss as well. How rich you truly are!
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