Homesick? You Are Not Alone
With millions of students leaving home and going away to college this fall, homesickness will be present in nearly every dorm room on every campus. Despite the buffet of opportunities, games, food and events planned for the first weeks of school, there will still be sadness. The research points to a number of possible reasons. One study considers homesickness like a mini-grief. Another looked at parenting styles to determine which students might be best suited to make it through this transition. Some researchers compare homesickness symptoms to a mild case of anxiety or depression.
What most agree is that the transition from a familiar home life, family, friends, food and lifestyle to one that is vastly different will require some time to make the needed changes. The three areas that tend to need adjustments are the environment, social connections and academics. Students, consider how to prepare for each of these areas before you leave for college.
Learn to make a simple to fix favorite food that would help make the dorm feel more like home, and the aroma could attract new friends too. Bring the ingredients and tools to make and serve it. Frame a few pictures of important places, people and pets to brighten up the new room and start conversations with roommates. Pack along that blanket you grab when you aren’t feeling 100%. It may not match your décor but it will bring comfort and familiarity. When you get to campus, leave your room and get to know where things are located. The more in control and at home you feel, the less you will miss your permanent address.
Let yourself be homesick for a limited time each day. Maybe an hour or even two, then go back to exploring your new spaces and meeting new people. Connecting with others (who likely are also homesick) will help in the long run, even if you feel sadder when you are out with others. Building a community of friends at school will help you want to return after a holiday break. There will be lots of activities available to keep you engaged in the first week or so. Take part as often as possible. You will meet people, learn about clubs and organizations on campus and get more familiar with the area.
Another big change is academics. In most of your college classes, you will receive the syllabus (course outline) with every assignment and test listed for the entire semester. Looking at it can be overwhelming. Especially if you are being handed five or six of them in the first week. In reality, this will give you control over your workload and when to best get it done. You can work ahead, plan around your job, activities or trips home, or at least keep up by following the syllabus and preparing for each class period. And most importantly, attend your classes!
Homesickness will happen for nearly everyone at some point in their lives. It varies greatly in severity and duration. Most cases are mild, last a few weeks and become less intense as you start to feel more at home in your new space with new people. Plan for it. Go into this new phase knowing that you are in good company if you miss your home, your people and your predictable life. Find your counseling center on campus and talk to someone about how you are feeling.
The NDSU Counseling Center has a great list of tips for handling homesickness at https://www.ndsu.edu/counseling/self_help_library/homesickness/