Freshmen Year: How to Fight the Feeling of Homesickness

That’s right Dorothy, there’s no place like home. But there are ways to help when you are missing home.

Sherry Woosley is a Director of Analytics and Research at Skyfactor who spent over a decade researching homesickness. She suggests two concepts that need to be present for someone to be homesick:

  • “Separation: A person must be separated from something — a location, family, a culture, or something familiar.”
  • “Distress: To be homesick, a person must also have negative feelings or distress related to that separation.”

As a college freshmen, homesickness is something that I recently experienced. While I only moved 116 miles north of where I grew up, I felt:

1. Separated from what I had formed 18 years of attachment to, and

2. Distressed by this separation. I did not know how to start over in a completely new environment without my friends and family.

Homesickness is common in new college students. It is likely the first time someone is going to be away from home without family for more than a week. Also the first time that you will have to move out and make a new home by yourself. This can be a hard transition. Luckily, people experiencing homesickness can overcome these negative feelings associated with the separation. Here are some ways that I have managed to deal with homesickness.

Make new friends: Finding people that you enjoy spending time with can make you feel more at home in your new environment.Talk with people that live near you or try sitting with new people in the dining hall. Once you make new friends, go exploring your new surroundings with them.

Join clubs: Colleges have many clubs that are meant for students that have similar interests to get together and have fun. For example, my school has over 200 clubs ranging from Humans vs Zombies to a robotics club. Your school will probably have a club fair at the beginning of the year. Go to it and grab a flier from any club that looks interesting. You can go to the first couple meetings and see how you feel. I did this with my university’s photography club and I made a few friends through the club. College is a time to find yourself, and attending clubs can help you try new things.

Talk to a counselor or a Resident Adviser (RA): There are many resources your school will provide to help you cope with homesickness. This includes counselors, RAs, and the health center. There will be plenty of people to talk to. Most of these people will know what you are going through, especially an RA, since they are students too who have recently gone through leaving home and likely felt homesick themselves.

Stay in touch with home: Whether this is by visiting home or calling/facetime, talking to the people you miss will help you feel better. Your friends and family will miss you just like you are missing them. They will appreciate hearing from you. Take advantage of the technology that is available to you. Computers and cell phones make communication over long distances very easy. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with homesickness without the internet.

Decorate your room: By decorating your room with things that remind you of home, you can make your room actually feel more like home. Make this space your own. Put up some pictures.

Wait: Homesickness gets better over time as you get used to being away from home. In time you will start to view college as home. Personally, I started to feel less homesick by the end of my first quarter at college. Research has shown that homesickness usually lasts between 1–6 months. If it continues past 6 months, it is considered chronic. This rarely happens.

The first year of college can be hard for some people. Homesickness is very real and can be hard, but you will get through it.