Though freshmen students are experiencing the excitement and freedom of being away from home, they can also experience college homesickness. Being homesick in college is more common than you’d think, so we’ve put together some information and tips for the homesick college student and their loved ones.
Let’s take a look at homesickness in college — what it is, why students experience it, and most importantly, how students and parents can cope with it.
What Is Homesickness?
Homesickness is best characterized as the feelings of loss and grief that people feel when they are away from their home and normal environment.
As freshmen students, who are usually on their own for the first time, homesickness can show up as sadness, depression, or anxiety. College freshmen are often homesick, with 66% of freshmen reporting feelings of homesickness.
Getting homesick in college is a very normal response to a separation from home and family. Almost all new college students experience it in one way or another, and freshmen should know that it is normal to experience this feeling. If you are experiencing homesickness in college, it’s a normal sign that you are understandably missing the familiar and comfortable environment of home, family, and friends.
Homesickness is usually brought on by any rapid change, and the adjustment to college life and campus is definitely a change that takes getting used to for new students.
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How Students Cope With Homesickness
1. Know That Your Feelings Are Normal
A big step in dealing with college homesickness is to acknowledge that your feelings are completely normal, and that there are many other students dealing with the same thing.
Dealing with the feelings on your own can feel even more isolating. But if you know that you are not the only one, then it will make it easier to cope, talk about it with others, and get help when necessary.
2. Get Out Of Your Room
Though it may feel more comfortable to stay in your dorm room when you’re feeling down or anxious, doing so will continue to make you feel alone or isolated. Getting out and doing things — even just getting outdoors for a walk — does a lot to boost feelings of sadness or depression, and will also give you the opportunity to meet others and get involved on campus.
3. Make Friends
College is an awesome time to make new friends who will not only help you cope with college life, but will make college a fun and meaningful experience. By getting out and meeting people, you will soon start to feel a little more at home in college, and you’ll soon see that college friends can become both good friends and chosen family as you enter into this new stage of adulthood.
4. Remember Connections Back Home
Although you may be far from home, your childhood friends, and family, you’re never truly alone. Family and friends are thankfully just a phone call or text away, and it’s especially important as you settle in to your new surroundings and routine that you can keep in touch with loved ones back home. This will ease the transition as you start to find your people and place on campus.
5. Seek Help
You’re not alone. Take advantage of campus resources and adults that are there to help. Ask a trusted adviser or staff member where you can go for support, whether you just need recommendations for ways to get involved on campus, or more serious help from a guidance counselor. Ask about counseling centers on campus that are there to help with students’ emotional and mental health, and tell them how you’ve been coping with homesickness and adjusting to college.
5 Helpful Tips For Homesick Freshmen
Besides the above suggestions, here are a few little tricks to get you through the adjustment period in college.
1. Decorate Your Room
Besides allowing you to get creative with your new room, decorating your dorm can help you adjust to the new place. Bring items and decoration from your room back home, or have your family send a few mementos and pictures to hang on your wall. This way, you can be surrounded by familiar things, and this will help you adjust to your new space and feel more comfortable and at home in your new surroundings.
2. Get Involved On Campus
If you’re not sure how to go about making new friends and connections, try getting involved on campus. College campuses usually have a lot going on, and there are always teams, activities, and clubs that give students the opportunity to connect to others while investing in their interests and hobbies. Take a look at your college website or bulletin boards and see what piques your interest. You’ll be sure to meet other like-minded students in no time.
3. Stick To A Daily Routine
One of the reasons why college freshmen get homesick is because they are away from their normal and familiar routine. By creating a routine in your new environment, campus life starts to feel more manageable and familiar. Making a daily routine can also include getting out and going to events where you can meet other students outside of class.
4. Get Familiar With Your New Surroundings
If you haven’t toured the campus before classes started, spend some time orienting yourself to your new surroundings. You can find someone to show you around, ask for directions to the various spots on campus, or just stroll around to get used to the grounds. Being more familiar with your physical surroundings can help you feel more at ease and at home in no time.
5. Stay In Touch (But Not Too In Touch)
As you get used to your new surroundings, studies, and schoolmates, staying in touch with family and friends back home will remind you that you’re not alone. See how your high school friends are coping with their new colleges, or ask your parents about their own experiences back in college.
It may help to schedule calls with people back home, whether once a day in the beginning, or once a week as you get more adjusted. Make sure to keep in touch, but then direct your efforts toward getting comfortable and making friends where you are. That way, staying in touch will comfort you as you acclimate, but won’t stop you from fully experiencing what college has to offer.
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How Parents Could Help
1. Help Prepare For College
Parents can help their homesick college student transition more smoothly by taking them on campus tours before the semester starts. This can help students orient themselves and become familiar with their surroundings. This way, when they arrive for their first semester, they will already know their way around, and won’t feel like they are stepping into an unknown and foreign place.
Preparation for college can also come in the form of emotional preparation, such as talking about the possibility of homesickness beforehand, and how students and parents can work together when feelings of homesickness occur.
2. Express Optimism, Not Anxiety
Parents can help by being positive about the college experience, and everything that can be gained by this important step into young adulthood. Expressing and focusing on the positive parts about the college experience, instead of expressing anxiety, will allow freshmen to go into the experience with more optimism as well.
As a parent, you might be just as anxious about your child’s departure, but focusing on the adventure of college will help them go into it with more peace of mind, and help ease feelings of homesickness.
3. Encourage Them To Connect
Encourage your freshmen to make friends, and if need be, to get help if homesickness gets too tough to handle on their own. If you see that they are spending too much time on their own and getting stuck in feelings of homesickness, it can be helpful to point them toward connection with others.
4. Send Them Packages
Sending your new student little packages and mementos can help boost their spirits and remember that they are not alone. You can send them familiar things from back home, or you can even just send some food and seasonal items to make them feel more comfortable in their new space.
The Bottom Line
Homesickness in college can be a surprise for new students, and way more common than you think. College can be an exciting and adventurous time, but being away from home for the first time, and the accompanying feelings of homesickness, can be difficult for freshmen students.
Knowing how to cope with these normal responses can help students adjust more easily to campus life and gain everything college has to offer.