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Homesick Blues

It gets tough being an out-of-state student. The costs of tuition is constantly rising. For students who attend colleges and universities outside of their home state, these raises are always a contributing factor in regards to university retention. But, along with financial reasons having an impact on retention rates, several students are suffering from a form of separation anxiety. This separation anxiety is better known in the collegiate realm as being “homesick.” For some students across the nation this anxiety and longing for home is causing a decline in their academic performance, and supporting the want to pack it up and move back home. According to a study done by Educational Benchmarking, Inc., an organization that seeks to “provide the most comprehensive, comparative assessment instruments and analysis to support quality improvement efforts¹,” there are two types of homesickness students suffer from – separation and distress. Separation homesickness is the developmental process associated with becoming an independent by most first-year students. This form of homesickness has a minor impact on semester grades and fall-to-spring retention. Distress homesickness is described as the feeling of regret for leaving home and the strong desire to return. This is experienced by a small percentage of first-year students and has greater impact on first semester grades as well as fall-to-spring retention.

 This April 2011 study goes on to show that at least 50 percent of students surveyed agreed to missing their families, friends and significant others to a moderate degree. Thus experiencing separation homesickness, whereas less than 20 percent admitted to feeling upset because they wanted to go home, or some form of regret in relation to leaving home.

Stephanie Harris, a senior Broadcast Journalism student is one of many students who suffer from separation homesickness. “Being away from home for the past four years, I’ve missed so much time with my family,” she claims. Harris is from Washington, D.C., that is a 15-hour drive from Tallahassee, Fla. “I live through pictures and e-mails. That is the only way I can stay in contact,” said Harris.

Although homesickness is plaguing some college students, there are some students who have yet to be but by the homesick bug. “I'm not homesick. Nope! Never! I love being in Florida on my own. I've met so many wonderful people,” said Carole Cox, a junior Theatre student from Los Angeles. Cox continues, “Of course I miss my family, but there's always Skype & phone calls.”

To cope with homesickness and other forms of separation anxiety or depression, many universities offer counseling sessions on campus. Sunshine Manor, which is located between Tucker hall and the Black Archives, is the home to the Office of Counseling Services. Sunshine Manor “provides a professional, confidential atmosphere where students can discuss academic and personal issues.²” These services are free to students who are enrolled in the university and are available on appointment basis. Students are allotted twelve, 45-to-50 minute sessions with a licensed counselor per semester. Even if a student does not suffer from separation anxiety per say, Sunshine Manor also provides counseling on an array of other topics including: relationships, academics, sexual orientation, alcohol, drugs and more.

The Office of Counseling Services is open to all students from Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers extended hours on Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., by appointment only. For more information please visit http://www.famu.edu/index.cfm?Counseling&Welcome. To schedule an appointment please call 850-599-3145.  

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