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:
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?!