You may know the symptoms of homesickness. A feeling of anxiety tinged with sadness and, regardless of how busy you are, thoughts that return over and over to home and family.
But what does it mean when a college student experiences homesickness? According to a CNN article by Derrick Ho, this common malaise is neither a sickness nor is it really about home.
Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama's School of Public Health, identifies the root of so-called homesickness as the instinct we all have to seek love, protection, and security. When you find yourself in an unfamiliar environment, it’s natural to think wistfully about the places and people, who up to now, have been providing you with these basic needs.
Believe it or not, there is an upside to homesickness. Keep in mind that the more homesick you feel, the stronger the attachments you have formed with things that are important to you. Wouldn’t it be disappointing if these positive attachments were missing in your life?
Feeling out of your element can actually inspire you to reach out and connect with fellow students. This will help you to feel like you are part of a group and allow you to establish your own support network. When you are able to “make yourself at home" in a somewhat strange environment, your confidence in your ability to make your way in the bigger world naturally increases.
As much as you miss them, you may want to agree on a specific weekly time to get in touch with your parents (barring emergencies of course). This gives everyone a chance to adapt to the new situation.
Find personally satisfying activities at school similar to ones you enjoyed at home, perhaps cooking with dorm-mates or volunteering for a charity or church group. It will help you make your college a “home away from home".
You may think that if you haven’t yet formed close friendships at school, your only alternative is to retreat to your room. You don’t need a close companion to go to the quad or campus coffee shop to do your reading. There’s nothing like a little people-watching to get a feel for your college community.
If particularly strong pangs hit, go ahead and give yourself a day to indulge those feelings. Limit it to that one day, then make a conscious effort to move on by joining in social activities, attending campus events, and otherwise enjoying time with others.
College is not as “cliquish" as high school. The clubs, student organizations, and even social circles in college are more open and dynamic than in high school. The Office of Student Activities (or the equivalent on your campus) can give you a head start on a feeling of belonging by providing a list of clubs.
Derrick, H. (2010, August 16). Homesickness isn't really about 'home'. CNN Health. Retrieved April 15, 2014, CNN Health
Mayfield, L., & Mayfield, J. (2011, September 6). 9 Ways to Handle Homesickness. U.S. News & World Report Education. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from U.S. News and World Report
Lucier, K. L. (2011, September 28). 5 Ways for College Students to Survive Being Homesick. U.S. News & World Report Education. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from U.S. News and World Report