Advice

Dealing with Homesickness

The emails have already started… Homesickness is settling in. To be honest, when I think about new freshman heading off to college, I start to get emotional! It’s no secret that my first few months at school were a challenge. I personally spiraled pretty quickly to my lowest of lows and it all, I think, stemmed from homesickness. (There were a few other factors, of course, but it was really missing home that tipped off the dominos.) I truly think I’d be a great actress because I can cry on command; all I have to do is think about kids saying bye to parents outside of dorm rooms– and vice versa.

Although that first semester was incredibly rough, I think it was something I desperately needed. I had to figure out who I was outside of what I had always known. Yes, it felt like I was swimming through the deep end, in the dark, and without a life jacket… but I made it to the other side and to see the sun rise again. It was worth it.

I think I’m a pretty seasoned pro for dealing with homesickness now. It’s been since August 2008 (literally eight years minus one day) since I officially left for college and I pretty much didn’t look back, moving to NYC for three years after graduation, and now Connecticut. It’s been eight years and I only get random pangs of homesickness every now and then. Here’s what helped me (finally) adjust:

Dealing with Homesickness at College copy

ONE // Live in the present

This is actually something that I didn’t do at first and had to learn the hard way. I wasted so much time and energy dwelling on the fact that I wasn’t home instead of focusing on where I was. That is, a brand new school with awesome classes and even more awesome students. I let opportunities pass me by while scrolling through my high school friends’ Facebook photos (now it’d be Snapchats, I guess) missing them. It’s OK to miss your friends and family, but that shouldn’t hold you back from embracing where you are and learning to love that just as much too. Your family aside, there was a point in time when you had to build your relationships with the friends you currently have. Think about the time and patience it took to get to the level of friendship you have now. You’ll need that time and patience to build new friendships with your college classmates.

TWO // Look forward to Thanksgiving

Everybody is going to have a different situation in college, but for me getting to Thanksgiving was monumental. So much sh!t happened between the first day of classes and Thanksgiving break for me, it’s unreal. Getting to the fourth Thursday of November was like trying to reach the end of a marathon without actually training to run long distance. It wasn’t pretty– but I crossed the line. It was a huge turning point for me and I know, from speaking with friends and other students, it also signified a big change for them too. I think I had a countdown in my planner going for how many days left until I got to go home. While I didn’t think I’d ever want to get back on the flight to return to DC, I was itching to get back to campus by Saturday. It was funny– I realized the grass wasn’t as green as I remembered (or something like that) and I actually missed college. Again, big turning point for me… at least from a mentality standpoint.

THREE // Find something to look forward to every day

While you’re looking forward to the next time you go home, see your friends, reunite with your parents, etc., make sure you have something to look forward to every day. This is actually a double whammy. Firstly, you have a fun thing every day to distract you and motivate you. It could be anything from seeing the cute guy in your Monday 8am class, intramural volleyball practice, exploring a new part of campus, or an acapella concert. Don’t forget to pick something that gets you out of your dorm room– binge watching another episode of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix doesn’t count.

Secondly, maybe you’re so distracted by all the new things you’re discovering and experiencing that you don’t even realize that you’ve made it through the first two weeks of school and you’ve met people and you know your way around campus and you have a study group set for one of your classes. You’re doing it!!! Getting out and about is the only way to plant some roots. You’ll feel lost and alone from time to time, but before you know it you’re feeling good and confident.

FOUR // Be the friend you want to have

Here’s another one I learned the hard way. I felt like I was waiting around for people to come up to me and invite me to things. Not exactly how it works. It definitely can happen that way, but you should also be proactive and be the friend YOU want to have. Corral everyone on your floor together for a movie night on a random Tuesday. Knock on the door of the girl who has yet to go out and ask if she wants to head to the party with you. Ask the guy sitting next to you in class if he wants to study before next week’s exam.

  • * If you get to winter break and still don’t feel like you’ve met your BFFs, hang tight. There’s a weird phenomenon called “first semester friends” where people make quick friends in the first few months but the lasting friendships are the ones built afterward. You’ll come back January and notice that you, and other people, start shifting around friend groups.

FIVE // Schedule calls

Even if you’re busy trying to put yourself out there and adjust to academics, homesickness can still creep in. I definitely relied on calling my mom, frequently. It helped. I think I should have been better about doing one big call at a set time instead of calling my mom the minute I felt homesick. The calls were like band-aids and not something I shook until a few years ago. I still call my mom a lot, but now it’s because I want to talk to her not because I just need to hear her voice.

Any tips I missed that you’d add?!

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27 Comments

Rachel

The best advice I have for overcoming homesickness is to focus only on the next five minutes, or the next hour, or the next day – whatever time period it is that you are comfortable thinking about. When I was in my first year of college, I couldn’t bear to think about a full week at a time, but I knew I could get through the next five minutes. It’s powerful!

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Bella

Should students feel homesick again after their first year of college? or is it just at the start of first year cause its something new?

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Ry

I think its normal becuase I feel the same but going to hang out with people always helps especially if you’re not a partier like me.

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Danielle

Wow, this post really took me back to 2010! Homesickness was the worst. A couple of things that helped me were to visit a friend from high school on her campus one weekend (it was like a taste of home, but still a college setting!), really diving into club and activities, and finding those first semester friends (so true) to keep me occupied until I really did find my BFF’s. Great post!
Danielle @ afloat on a full sea

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Hannah

My best advice for freshman struggling with homesickness would be to find a professor you love who can act as a mentor for you throughout your time in college. I attended a small liberal arts school where I couldn’t seem to find my place, but I met the most amazing professor who inspired me to pursue a career in foreign service and international terrorism. If you demonstrate interest in the subjects your professors are passionate about it’s easy to make a connection. Having an adult there to give you advice, get coffee with and talk over ideas made transitioning to college so much easier. Extra bonus: professors are often well connected in their field, giving you a gateway to networking and connections to jumpstart your career!

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Alanna

This takes me back almost 10 years! My HS friends and I always used to write notes during the day and pass them along in the hallway with funny stories or gossip (obviously this was before texting became the norm) so we took that tradition a step further in college and would write each other letters with news, gossip, little pick me up or thinking of you notes. This is actually something we do to this day to be honest, whether we live in the same city, across the country or just a state away! It also made/makes trips to the mail room that much more exciting 🙂

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Cristina

I fortunately didn’t have to move far away when I went to university but I’ve lived in different countries and I’ve felt homesick many times. I dealt with those sad feelings thanks to Skype and keeping busy with new friends. Since I also missed food I made my favorite recipes from back home from time to time 🙂

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Ally

Honestly, I’ve lived away from ‘home’ for 12 years and I still get homesick (especially during the NFL season, because Sunday football was a big deal at my mom’s and at the very end of summer, when my dearest cousin’s birthday is). I personally find that it’s the little details that help put it to rest, like giving my cats an extra belly rub or enjoying a cup of tea on my couch. I also find that affirming with “Yes ‘x’ is great and I miss it, but ‘y’ and ‘z’ are equally great and right here,” statements help remind me of why I love where I am now and how much the people in my life mean to me.

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Kate

Thanks for such a great post, Carly. It reminded me of some of the great posts that got me into reading this blog in the first place! To be entirely honest, I’ve grown a bit weary of the sponsored posts and guest posts. After reading the Lilly post, the Maxie post, the other Lilly post, and the Keurig post all in a row, I was beginning to wonder if that was the only content I could expect on this blog in the future. But this post reminded me why I still return to this blog time and time again. You’re a wonderful writer with plenty of valuable insights, and I hope to see more posts like this in the future.

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Hannah

These are great tips. I moved to London last August and miss home terribly and don’t feel as though I have settled however I think these tips will definitely help. Thanks Carly!

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Renae

Thank you for writing this now. I just started my first week of college almost a week ago and have been having a bit of a hard time with homesickness. It’s getting better everyday, but reading this has help me with a few ideas when it sprouts up again!

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Shayla

Thank you so much for this post! I can’t express how crucial it feels to be present and put your college social life first in these very special years. But…once we get out there how can we make and keep friends? I always sit next to people that seem cool at school, but I don’t know how to extend from saying hello to becoming a friend. What do you think?

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carly

I think you have to start small… From hello to “I’m putting together a study group if you want to join” and go from there. Small steps!

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Alyssa

I was SO homesick my first semester of college. I think taking it day by day, purposely putting yourself outside of your comfort zone, and bonding with people on your floor or in class will help. And before you know it, college has flown by and it’s time for the real world! One step at a time!

Alyssa @ Feathers and Stripes

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Jessica

I’m a sophomore and this still really hit home with me. Homesickness sucks. I’m from the DC area so I like to watch a show that takes place in DC on Netflix while I’m at school. It reminds me of home but still keeps my mind off my exact hometown and friends and family and such. I haven’t quite nailed the friends thing yet but having classes I’m engaged in and spending lots of time out of my dorm room – be it at the gym, the library or a club meeting, help me not to be so down.

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Olivia

Thank you for sharing this! I just moved in yesterday and the homesickness is coming in waves; reading this just brightened my day.

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