Having trouble dealing with your new life away from friends and family? The information below will help you as you make your transition from home to college.
A College Guide to Alleviate Homesickness
Symptoms of Homesickness
- Feelings of anxiety about separation from loved ones
- Anxiety about one’s performance
- Feelings of isolation and loneliness
- Feeling different from others we think are having a good time
- Feeling depressed and/or sad with low motivation to study or make friends
- Yearning for a connection to someone who will “take the pain away and make things seem alright”
- Constantly thinking about home
When students leave home to attend college, many leave behind their support system, a sense of familiarity, and level of comfort. Most of us feel a strong connection with the place of our birth or the place we call home. Sometimes we might find it distressing if we can’t physically go there when in need of security and comfort.
More About Homesickness
Homesickness is universal. Psychologists refer to it as “separation anxiety” and note that few people are immune.
Homesickness can impact any of us when we move to new surroundings and experience new situations, people, and demands to which we're not accustomed.
Many students and families believe the myth that students won't be homesick in college if they've left home successfully in the past, e.g. camps, vacation, other travel, etc.
How is Homesickness Different from Depression?
Students who are depressed don't experience relief from their symptoms, even if they go home for the weekend or engage in their favorite activities.
Students who are homesick often find that, when they leave school and spend time at home, their depressive symptoms disappear.
Homesickness Can Hit Anytime
Some students will experience mild symptoms of depression and anxiety several weeks before leaving home.
Some students might feel fine at first but, as the excitement of college begins to wane, or even during their second year, homesickness can strike.
Homesickness isn't reserved only for the young. It can impact anyone at any time in their life when encountering a move or change in environment.
- The distance between home and school
- Not feeling prepared academically to meet the challenges of college
- The decision to attend college or a particular college was not made by the student
- A sense of anticlimax at finally arriving at college after working towards it for so long
- Contrast in lifestyle, including different cultural values or traditions, sexual orientation, or geographic differences such as moving from a large city to a smaller one
- Financial issues that require the student to work and go to school at the same time
The Good News About Homesickness
While homesickness can be painful, it also presents us with an opportunity to grow beyond who and what we are. It represents a challenge to take charge of our lives and learn new skills in order to deal with our emotions as well as other people.
When we work to master homesickness, we can increase our range of comfortable experiences, which usually leads to increased self-esteem and a sense of independence.
Working With Your Thoughts
If you're engaging in negative thoughts about yourself, your new environment, and/or your life in general, it's likely that your symptoms of homesickness will intensify rather than subside.
So instead of saying “I don’t fit in here. I want to transfer," you might try saying “I'm learning to adjust here, and more practice will make this easier. It’s already easier to do some things here now than when I first arrived. These feelings are normal, and I need to give myself more time before I make a decision to leave.”
Instead of saying “I hate changes, and I'm too nervous to relax here," try saying "I can calm down and take this one step at a time. I’ve been upset and anxious before in my life, and I’ve managed to get by, often ending up with more self-confidence than when I began."
If you continue to work at shifting your thoughts from negative to positive ones, you're very likely going to be able to feel a decrease in homesickness.
Remember: This takes a lot of practice! Be gentle with yourself when you notice you’re in the midst of saying something negative!
How to Cope While Creating a Second Home at Penn State Beaver
Accept that you're feeling a sense of loss and discomfort. It might take some time for you to feel as comfortable at college as you do at home. But remember that you can survive these feelings of homesickness if you allow yourself to calm down and get oriented.
Don't try to bury feelings of homesickness. Remember, engaging in drinking, partying, or sex won't make your feelings disappear.
Talk to someone. If you haven’t made friends yet, try talking to your resident assistant (RA), roommate, neighbor, a personal counselor, or a member of the Student Affairs or Campus Ministry staff.
Focus on things that relax you, such as deep breathing, listening to music, going for a walk, exercising, or talking with a friend in person, online, or on the phone.
Try to make new friends by talking with those on your floor and/or in your classes. Participate in orientation activities and other activities designed to help students meet each other.
Once you get your student account and Penn State email address, check your email for upcoming activities and ways that you can get involved on campus. Also, check out campus flyers and notices about events on and off campus.
You're not alone! Many students experience homesickness at some point(s) during their college careers.
It’s okay to feel sad and homesick, but remember to try to enjoy yourself and your life. You can have a good time, and you're not being disloyal to the people you miss.
Be gentle with yourself, and give yourself time to adjust. The transition to college can be difficult. Be patient with yourself, and forgive yourself. Laugh at your mistakes. You’re learning!
Use Your Support System
If you continue to feel distressed or depressed, please don't hesitate to seek help. Contact CounselingServicesBeaver@psu.edu, 724-773-3961.
Remember - getting support early can help to alleviate symptoms of homesickness.