US College 101: How to deal with homesickness?

Hi! I’m Timothy, a recent UCLA community college transfer, about to start my senior year at UCLA. I’m going to give you a few pointers on surviving your first month as a freshman or exchange student.

Hong Kong, where I call home

General Tips

First thing you will learn as an US College student: learn to live independently.

You’ll get plenty of opportunities to live independently: learning to drive, to cook, to learn (yes, you need to learn how to learn efficiently!), how to navigate the city, fight for your own rights, protect yourself and friends and everything in between.

Feeling homesick? I did too! Did I cry? Yes I did! Being able to accept that humans are fallible and human emotions are normal are huge milestones for your adult life.

Reading about other people’s experiences are not enough. You have to experience them.

It’s good reading about how other people deal with challenges and how they manage/fail to manage to overcome them, but you actually have to go out there and experience the anxiety, homesickness and nervousness first hand to internalize the value of an American education.

Go out there. Just do it!

I know it sounds cliché, but living in a place where the only dependent is yourself (perhaps not financially for some), you need to think for yourself.

It makes you feel so alive when you have do “literally” everything.

How to deal with homesickness/boredom?

You may ask how does one deal with homesickness? You deal with homesickness by getting used to it. Most common methods of dealing with homesickness are:

  1. Talking to friends and family back home

This is probably you go-to response if you are homesick. “I miss home! I need to grab onto anyone and anything that reminds of home!” This works for the first few days and is recommended. Accept that it is natural to miss the place that you have been living in for around 17 – 20 (maybe more) of your life. Suddenly letting all of it go is challenging at first.

That’s how I felt too!

Pro Tip: Call home and friends for the first few days, then reduce the frequency and duration accordingly

Proactively reducing the frequency and duration of your calls is important because it allows you to truly immerse yourself in your new environment. Finding new friends and communities in an unfamiliar environment is an important skill to acquire.

2. Have a consistent groups that you hang out with

The key here is consistence. You should find or develop your own consistent group of friends who will always have your back while you are feeling stressed and experiencing hardships (financial, emotional and physical). Your group should be diverse (if possible) with people from all walks of life, different years, various majors, diverse ethnicity and religions. The rule of thumb of telling who your good friends are is that you are willing to share ANYTHING with them and that they are RECEPTIVE to your opinions. They will give you feedback but will listen to you first before they give their comments. Good friends will also share anything that crosses their mind. You are willing to go out of you way to help and support your friends. I always have a support group in the my community so that I give support and get supported.

IMPORTANT: If you think you consistent group does not suit you, DON’T STICK TO IT. Find and develop a group of new friends that you can depend on.

2. Pick up a hobby or interest

Picking up a hobby or interest such as reading, watching movies, doing a sport, writing apps, drawing and design and learning an instrument allows you to optimize your independent time in mastering these hobbies. You can meet friends while engaging in these activities and improve your fulfillment and productivity. You can most certainly join a club on campus to cultivate your hobby. I took up jogging while I was at community college. I used to run every evening after school.

Pro Tip: Pick up a hobby that you think that you are “not good” at. You never know whether you will enjoy the activity or not. Go try something new.

3. Find friends from home

Typically at a large university, there are dedicated communities for specific ethnicity and religions. You can join these groups if you miss home. I recommend that you socialize with these people but remember to keep a healthy balance of local friends and friends from home.

UCLA Hong Kong Student Society

4. Learn cooking

Getting bored in college is the perfect time to master some culinary skills. Learning to cook properly takes time with plenty of trials and errors along the way. Better to learn how to cook up some basic but also delicious dishes when you have the time to learn. Learn cooking from Gordon Ramsay’s Masterclass or YouTube!

Learn to cook!

5. Go to your high school’s alumni chapter

If you went to an established or international high school at your home, you should visit their respective alumni chapters in your area. Speaking from a Hong Kong high school student, our school has alumni chapters across the world*.

Selected Overseas Chapters for Hong Kong’s high schools:

Wahyanites Around the World (for WYHK and WYK):

La Salle College Overseas Chapter:

Wah Yan Alumni Association SF Bay Chapter

That’s it for now. I think these tips are good enough for anyone who just started college as a freshman or exchange student.