(Orientation) Homesickness


For many people, starting college is the first step toward a life on their own. But homesickness can happen at any time. The first semester of college is a much longer separation from parents and friends than many people are used to, and the idea of being away from home for a while can take some adjustment.

What does it feel like to be homesick?

Homesickness can make a person feel lonely, sad, and empty. It can also affect the way some people feel physically and cause someone to lose his or her appetite, have an upset stomach, or get headaches.

Homesickness should gradually disappear as you begin to adapt to college life and as the new classes, surroundings, and people become more familiar. But for some people, it can build into depression. It's important to monitor how you feel and get help if your feelings start to become overwhelming.

How can you cope with homesickness?

The best way to deal with homesickness is to make your life in your new surroundings enjoyable:

_ Make your new space your new home. Mix mementos from back home _ photos, stuffed animals, etc. _ with other things that reflect who you are.

_ Get involved on campus. Look for activities or organizations to join and invite new friends to come along with you.

_ Invite an old friend, parent, or sibling to visit. Spend a weekend showing your friend or family member around campus. If a friend is at a different college, make plans to visit his or her school.

_ Learn more about the area. Get a book about the local area, or see whether student services has any information for new students about the area.

_ Take advantage of the many ways to stay in touch. Call family and friends, send email or text messages, write letters, or send cards.

_ Make plans for a visit home. Even if you live far away, just having a visit to look forward to can help.

_ Talk to other students or your dorm's RA about how you feel. You may find that they're also homesick and looking for ways to deal with it, just as you are.

An occasional visit home can help _ and even remind you of how great your new life is at college. But try not to hold onto your old life too closely. If you find yourself driving home every weekend, it might make it harder to acclimate to college.

What if it doesn't go away?

For most people, homesickness gradually fades, but sometimes people don't get over their homesickness and may start to feel depressed. Symptoms of depression include:

_ feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness

_ sadness or a depressed mood most of the time, for apparently no reason

_ irritability or anxiety

_ lack of energy, tiredness

_ loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy

_ withdrawal from family and friends

_ changes in eating habits, such as a loss of appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain

_ changes in sleep patterns, such as suddenly sleeping all the time or difficulty sleeping much at all

_ trouble concentrating

_ thoughts of suicide or death

If you have some of these symptoms, or if you can't shake your feelings of homesickness, get help from the student counseling center or a doctor. The counselors at the center have experience dealing with homesickness and depression and can offer you advice on coping with your feelings. There may even be some support groups on campus where you can meet and talk to other students dealing with the same issues.

After a couple of months away at school, you'll probably wonder why you ever thought the transition to college life was difficult. You may even discover that you experience a different variation when you head home for vacations or the long summer break: missing your new friends and your new college life.