Whether you live 10 miles or 1000 miles away from home, living alone at college for the first time is a challenge countless students face each year. For the first time in 18 years, you have the freedom to come and go as you please, but you also no longer have the comfort of familiar surroundings.
After entering my fourth semester as an out-of-state student and my second as a Resident Assistant at UCF, I’ve found some strategies that have helped me and my residents cope with feeling homesick.
- Allow yourself time to feel what you need
When I left Massachusetts to go to UCF, I cried before I even got on the flight to Orlando. I cried saying goodbye to my dog, I cried saying goodbye to my grandparents, and I cried saying goodbye to my best friend (and we pride ourselves on being people that don’t cry). After my parents finished moving me into my dorm freshman year, I walked with them to the elevator, sobbing. My parents also cried, even if they deny it now. Once again, I’m not a person who usually cries, but at that moment I needed to allow myself to feel my emotions fully. Adjusting to living away from home is a huge step one takes to move forward in life, and it’s okay to feel nervous or sad about the transition at first.
- Pick a time to call loved ones from home
One tip that helped me with my homesickness was to call and FaceTime my parents and friends semi-regularly. While it isn’t a substitute for being home in person, the familiarity of telling a story or getting an update about things at home helped me feel not so far away. I’d also FaceTime when I could for events that I couldn’t be at, such as my brother’s prom pictures or my younger brother’s birthday. I like to call my parents around 5 p.m. because when I’m at home, that’s usually the time I would be getting home from work or school or other activities, and would tell them about my day.
- Find Activities to look forward to
Another strategy that I used to fight my homesickness was to find things to look forward to at school. My first few months at UCF were filled with many events that I was excited to attend and that distracted me from feeling homesick. The orientation week activities as well as football games on the weekends were things I looked forward to. I also fell in love with exploring the city of Orlando with my roommates and creating new traditions with friends at school. My friends and I like to plan trips to Universal Studios because we have annual passes, but even something as simple as a coffee run or getting Dairy Queen can distract me from being homesick.
- Carry habits from home to school
Another tip to deal with homesickness is to try and carry on habits or a routine from home to help with the transition. One of the biggest changes that reminds you that you aren’t at home is that now you have more responsibilities and there aren’t people around who might often be cooking or cleaning for you. To try and make living alone easier, I try to do things that I always did at home to help ease into the transition of living without structure. For example, I liked to watch Gossip Girl at night back home and so I would incorporate watching an episode of that show into my nightly routine in college.
- Know that you aren’t obligated to stay
While putting these tips into practice helped me and I’ve loved my time at UCF, it’s also important to note that not everyone will fall in love with their school — and that’s okay! Young adulthood is the time for you to figure out what’s best for your current situation, and the only person who can make that decision is you.
While I was nervous about moving to Orlando for school, I knew that going here was what I wanted. I’ve made so many great memories in my two years here so far, but I know there were people that had their doubts. If you need to visit home more in the first semester, do it! After my first year, being away from home got easier and I didn’t need to go home as much, but that’s not the case for everyone.
Don’t listen to what people say you “should” want to do. Instead, do what you want to do because this is an exciting time in your life where you have the opportunity to appreciate living on your own, and also possibly become even closer with loved ones at home because of the distance.