As the leaves start changing and the weather turns a little cooler, you might be reminded of a cozy couch at home or your grandma’s best cup of hot cocoa. Maybe classes are also starting to get harder, and all of this makes you miss home and think, “How many more weeks until winter break when I can go home?” Feeling homesick can be annoying, at least, and debilitating, at worst. The good news: you’re not alone. According to the Higher Education Research Institute's CIRP Your First College Year Survey, more than 70% of first-year college students have feelings of homesickness or loneliness¹. More good news: feelings of homesickness can lessen over time and your feeling of belonging can increase. In fact, 72% of surveyed students found it easy to develop close friendships with other students at their college and 85% agreed that at least one staff member took an interest in their development. So, if you're feeling homesick right now, hang in there! Below are two different Eastside Alums’ experiences with homesickness along with some tips for coping well with it.
Driving Away Homesickness
By Julissa Dueñas
I was never the kind of person to get homesick. Any time I would go on a long trip away from home, my goodbyes were fairly easy. I knew I would be back, I knew I would see my family again.
I remember the first few months into college being a breeze. If anything, the first two weeks didn’t even feel real. I felt like I was just away at a summer camp; I’d be home soon enough. And surely I was. Every three day weekend, or any chance I got really, I would drive 300 miles to see my family. Driving home the first time was a bit frightening because
1) I left when it started getting dark out
2) I had never driven such a long distance by myself before then.
It was a bit intimidating looking at the GPS seeing I had five hours left, with my only instruction being to stay on 101 for 296 miles. I would always get super excited when I finally heard Siri's voice again, 10 miles before my exit onto Embarcadero. Having driven back and forth so often afterwards, I found what worked for me and what didn't. I found ways to make the five hour drive feel like five minutes. If I started getting a little tired, I would just throw on some of the Jonas Brothers' old hits. I will never not sing along to 'Burning Up'.
But my second quarter, I went home a lot less often. My third quarter, I didn’t go home at all. That’s when the homesickness really got to me without me knowing. Everyone around me had already gotten over their homesickness in September, so no one really knew or guessed why I was so groggy in May: it was homesickness.
Everyone has their own experience with homesickness, mine just happened to hit really late. If I could have changed anything, I wouldn’t have brought a car my first year. I think forcing myself to stay away from home would have made the transition a lot easier for me earlier on.
Now in my second year, homesickness feels like a distant memory. I haven't taken my little rat (my car) up north this quarter, and I don't know if I even plan to until Thanksgiving and Winter Break. I think it's really healthy for me to not be seeing my family so often so I can start getting used to the idea of really being on my own. I text my mom, call my dad, and Snapchat my brother, so keeping in touch definitely helps. Of course I miss them, but I'll be okay. If I could give one piece of advice for those struggling with homesickness, or even if you’re not homesick, it would be to text your mom! I promise, she will love to hear from you, even if it isn’t your voice.
It’s a see you soon!
By Anonymous CO '17
It was a couple of days before I left for college. I was scrambling to get everything ready: packing up, buying the notebooks I needed, you know, buying the college essentials. I didn’t think much about moving into a totally new environment. I thought, yeah, maybe I will be a little homesick here and there. I mean, I will totally miss my home-cooked meals, but I’m sure I can deal with it. The day I left home, I remember my grandma standing outside our front porch, tears running down her cheeks and her hand waving goodbye. It felt like a scene from a movie, and of course I cried, but hey my first year of college held so many possibilities, it was a new beginning, I reminded myself.
Once I arrived at my college hometown, I had mixed feelings. I felt nervous, excited, sad, and joyful. I was moving in with a complete stranger and was in a whole different city. I wondered about so many things, and yes, at instances I had doubts about whether I had made the ‘right’ decision. My mom reassured me that these feelings were normal, and that everyone was feeling them, not just me. The next day was move-in day, and I was excited to meet my roommate and the new people from my hall. I was the fifth person moving into my hall; and once I arrived, the people who had gotten there before me each introduced themselves. They were all super nice and friendly, which made me feel a little more at ease. A couple hours later, my roommate arrived, and we both shared how excited and nervous we were about college. After I was all settled in, it was time to say goodbye to my parents. I walked them out of my residence hall and said goodbye, yes, I was sad but excited at the same time.
Days passed, and I got to get lost in my school trying to find classes, learning more about my roommate, and getting stressed about trying to order my college textbooks. After orientation, classes began, and I remember feeling anxious about it. Most of my classes were bigger since they were general classes everyone had to take. In my global studies class, one of the first assignments we had to turn in was a four page essay about the interrelationship between trade and conflict. I was nervous and was doubting myself. Could my essay could live up to a good college student essay?The stress I was feeling was coming from my other classes too, especially my math class, where the professor flew through material faster than I could write my notes. Luckily, my TAs were friendly and helpful. I met with my global studies TA multiple times to go over my essay. She gave me feedback that helped me feel more confident about my essay, and my math TA was able to help me with homework problems. But despite this, I was still so stressed about doing well that it soon piled up on top of the little homesickness I was feeling in the back of my mind.
"It [homesickness] first started with the dining hall food. Some days it was decent, but most of the time it wasn’t and it got repetitive. I missed my grandma's and mom’s home-cooked meals."
It [homesickness] first started with the dining hall food. Some days it was decent, but most of the time it wasn’t and it got repetitive. I missed my grandma's and mom’s home-cooked meals. Everyday going to the dining hall was a reminder that I was not home and had to eat whatever they were serving that day. Next, it was my hall. People were staying up late and making noise that resulted in me not to be able to go to sleep, and I began to become sleep-deprived. I think that was when my mood about college started to change, and I really began questioning my decision. I began to ask myself, Should I have decided to go to a school more near home? Had I committed the biggest mistake of my life? Was I going to feel like this forever?As I was grappling with these questions, I was also trying to get good grades, and that’s when I had my first meltdown. I remember calling my mom that afternoon crying and telling her that I thought I had made the wrong decision and that I wanted to go home. She reassured me that everything was going to be alright and that it was just a temporary phase I was going through. She also reminded me that Christmas break was coming soon, and I was going to be able to come home.
"I remember calling my mom that afternoon crying and telling her that I thought I had made the wrong decision and that I wanted to go home."
During the time period before Christmas break, I was able to make friends with people who had classes with me. This was such a relief, since I got to meet people who had some of the same concerns I had. We were able to help each other out when we had questions, and it made me feel less stressed out about classes. I also began to keep myself busy outside of classes: I would go out to eat with my friends, take a walk, or go to the gym. This made time pass by so fast! Soon the countdown for Christmas break was over, and I was able to go home and enjoy my family. When I had to come back to college, yeah, I got a little sad, but I always remembered what a family member once told me: it’s not a goodbye, “it’s a see you soon!”
General Coping with Homesickness Tips
1) Recognize you're feeling homesick and understand it's normal³
2) Call/email/write home to family and friends² ³
3) Get out of your dorm, get used to your new surroundings, and get connected with people and activities² ³
4) Talk about it with other students, professionals, or your college coach³
¹HERI. "Adjusting To College Can Be Tricky." CIRP Your First College Year Survey 2016, 2016. Accessed October 24, 2018. https://www.heri.ucla.edu/infographics/YFCY-2016-Infographic.pdf.
²Freer, Emma. "Homesick in College? One Freshman's Story about Conquering Loneliness." Your Teen Magazine. October 09, 2018. Accessed October 24, 2018. https://yourteenmag.com/teens-college/college-life/homesickness-college.
³Kolade, Lola, and Josh Klapow. "How to Deal with Homesickness Freshman Year." Her Campus. August 5, 2017. Accessed October 24, 2018. https://www.hercampus.com/high-school/how-deal-homesickness-freshman-year.