As an out-of-state student, my home resides in a New England town named Brookfield, Connecticut. A 720 mile twelve-hour road trip to Cincinnati distances me from my parents, my friends, and most importantly, my dog. Although I have been away at school for nearly four years now, I can’t help but miss my mom when I’m eating cereal for the third night in a row.
It isn’t always easy being far away from home, especially when you can’t just visit for the weekend. You have to miss important birthdays, holidays, celebrations, and watch it all from the outside. It can really make you feel left out. If you’re struggling with living away from home for the first time, you’re not alone.
Homesickness is extremely common amongst college students. A study conducted by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute reports that over 70% of college freshman expressed feelings of loneliness and homesickness in 2016. Homesickness can cause depression and anxiety, which can affect your academic performance and motivation. As a result, it’s important to establish healthy coping mechanisms to overcome this constant longing for home. Some suggestions that may help are:
Bring home with you
We find comfort in items that give us a sense of familiarity. I decorate my desk with pictures of fun memories with friends and family. Other comfort items could be a pillow from your bedroom at home or your mother’s favorite perfume. Simple things like these will help you feel at home.
Don’t limit yourself to physical items. Maybe listening to country music while showering reminds you of your small town in Kentucky. You can also share your family’s traditions with your new friends and host holiday parties in your dorm’s lobby. Home is where you make it.
Stay in Contact.
Stay in contact with your family and friends. Sometimes a phone call home can give you comfort that everyone is doing okay. When I feel homesick, I Facetime my parents. We update one another of what’s going on in our lives and then 720 miles doesn’t seem so bad anymore.
Sometimes, you might want something tangible from home. Handwritten letters and care packages are a blessing when you need something physical from the ones you love. Many parents send care packages for holidays, birthdays, exams, or just because they miss you too! Here is an awesome article that you can forward to your parents to hint that you would really appreciate receiving one: http://college.lovetoknow.com/campus-life/care-package-ideas-college-students
Have a family away from home.
Family doesn’t have to be blood-related, it can be a group of people that you feel at home with too. I am thankful that I found a family within my sorority (shout out to my Phi Mu sisters). These girls have been an amazing support system, making me feel as if I’ve known them as long as I’ve known my real family. Find your own new family at school. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a chapter of 150 members; it could be your dorm neighbors! Or maybe other students in your major! One amazing thing about college is that the student body is made up of young adults from all over the nation. We’re all seeking a sense of home away from home while attending school.
I also suggest if you have a friend whose hometown is close to campus, ask if you can tag along for holidays you can’t go home for. It keeps the day special and can remind you of good memories with your own family. It can also enable you to become more familiar with the surrounding area, so you’re no longer a foreigner. Spend time with your new friends until they become family because they will help make college your new home.
Talk to someone.
Some days are harder than others, but don’t give up. It’s okay to miss home. I recommend talking to a close friend about these difficult feelings as it’s never healthy to bottle up emotions. I’ve spent many nights venting to my roommates, and if I got through it, I know you can too.
If you are still struggling, it may be beneficial to seek counseling. UC offers a great amount of student services. To make an appointment, visit one of these websites for more information:
Get involved in clubs and organizations on campus. When you’re preoccupied by participating in events and meetings that you’re interested in, you’ll begin to love your new home at college (possibly even more than your hometown). College provides an endless amount of opportunities to meet people that have similar interests as you. Whether it’s weekly organization meetings or hanging out with friends binge-watching all of Riverdale, spend your time doing things that make you happy. The saying, “time flies while you’re having fun” applies to this concept. You’ll be too busy making new memories and broadening your horizons, it’ll be the end of the semester before you know it!