Combating Homesickness

When I first moved into college, I was so overcome with excitement that it masked all the nerves underneath. I had never felt such freedom before. That first week consisted of a lot of socializing. I didn’t have a lot of time to think about much else, other than, “Which part of campus am I going to check out today?” Most people on my floor were all still getting to know each other and so we spent a lot of time doing random things, such as trying different dining halls, discovering new spots around campus and trying to find the cheapest place to purchase textbooks. It was a few weeks into September when all the excitement finally started to settle and this underlying emotion I had never felt before suddenly hit me. I really, really missed home. This was unknown territory for me. What was this strange new sensation? Growing up, I was never far from home. I didn’t know how to combat this new problem. Throughout my first year of college, I compiled a list of things I did that worked for me when trying to solve my homesickness.  

  1. 1. Join clubs and organizations

    I think it’s safe to say that the university we attend is a pretty massive school. The streets and sidewalks during passing time are crazy packed. I love people. I love being surrounded by others. But, have you ever heard how sometimes we feel the most alone in a huge crowd of people? I never really understood what that meant until I started college. In huge lecture halls, what I noticed I would be sitting next to a new face every day, making it hard to connect with people I only talked to once or twice. It wasn’t like high school where all your friends had the same lunch schedules or where everyone knew each other and always walked around together. This was very different.  This new level of independence was something that I had never even thought about, especially after being accustomed to a particular way of doing things. It felt like a culture shock for a while until I got used to the way of life on campus. So, my next question was, how in the world do I make friends? How do I make this huge community of people just a little bit smaller and feel a stronger feeling of belonging? You’ve probably heard this piece of advice in high school too but it’s a really good one. Join clubs and organizations that you are interested in!  A perk of attending a huge school is the sheer variety you get. There are so many cool clubs on campus that you should check out. It’s such a great way to meet people interested in the same things you are. Bonding over a shared passion proved to be the easiest way to make friends and meetings throughout the month also keep you actively involved in your community.

  2. 2. Find ways to make this place your new home

    Because, after all, this is your new home! You moved out of your parents’ house to start a new chapter of your life. For a lot of people, they moved out of their childhood bedrooms. Over the years, those four walls may have provided a safe haven and comfort as you were growing up. In other terms, it gave a sense of familiarity. Now suddenly, you’re entering unknown territory.  Bare walls and stripped furniture in your new home on campus may almost seem uninviting. Not for long! Decorate it to match your style and personality and really make it your own. It’s so interesting to see how other people decorate their rooms. I feel like everyone brings a little bit of their own character to the space that they live in. Another thing I like to do is bring stuff from my room back home into my new room on campus just to give it a homier vibe. This could be anything from posters to electronics, stuffed animals or even blankets and sheets. Seeing things that I recognized being placed in my new room helped put me at ease. Anything that makes a foreign place feel a little more familiar can be super helpful!

  3. 3. Call and FaceTime home

    In today’s day and age, it is so easy to stay connected. I love being able to talk to my family and friends back home with the touch of a button. However, something I’ve noticed is that calling home sometimes actually makes me feel more homesick! So, is this strategy counterintuitive? Well, not necessarily. For me, even though I feel a little homesick after talking to my family, it reassures me that I am not alone. It gives me comfort that no matter how many miles apart we are from each other, I haven’t lost touch with them and we are all still there for each other. Also, just remember, they’ll be there when you go home to visit for breaks and holidays! It’s so exciting and keeps me going when I know that I will see them again soon. I recommend staying in touch of course but also taking this opportunity to explore this new independence you have.

  4. 4. Keep yourself active – both physically and mentally

    Push away negative thoughts and allow positive ones to shine through. Moping in your room all day can make it easy for intrusive thoughts of homesickness to enter. Remind yourself that you are here for a reason – higher education! University is where you cultivate yourself and grow into the person that you hope to be. There are so many cool things to do on campus and so many new experiences to be had.  Try doing things that you’ve never tried before! Take risks. This is your chance! Get to know new people from around the state, country and world. There is so much food, art, music and culture here in Madison. Have an open mind and explore all that campus has to offer. Maybe you’ll discover something new that really speaks to you. Keep yourself busy doing tasks you love or used to do back home. Go to class every day and keep up with your schoolwork. Be sure to stay on top of chores! Take time out of the day to do things for yourself too. Figure out ways to relax; take a yoga class or pick up meditation.  

  5. 5. Don’t get stuck in the past

    During my first semester of college, I spent a lot of people thinking about what I used to do or things that I used to have. I spent too much time in the past when I really should have been focused on the present. Spending your days in the past can contribute to feelings of homesickness and hinder your ability to move forward. Like I’ve said earlier, this is a new chapter of your life. Turn the page.  I know how good it may feel to reminisce of what you used to do and how different your life was, say, a year ago. But take this opportunity to explore what you haven’t gotten a chance to yet. Breaking old habits may be difficult but you’re in a new environment now and I recommend picking up new traditions. Think of this as a fresh slate. How do you want to write your college story? Also, having a routine can be helpful and provide a sense of comfort. When you create a routine for your new life on campus, it can help you feel a little more at ease.  

At the end of the day, there’s no set schedule on how long your homesickness will take to fully heal. Perhaps a few days, weeks or months. Honestly, maybe it won’t ever fully be gone. But let me tell you, it does get better with time. I promise. Just give it time. I hope that with these tips and tricks, you’re able to find peace where you need it. And hopefully, over time, instead of getting sad when you think of home, you’ll reminisce on it with glee and thinking of all the good memories will make you feel happy.