When I was a freshman I was a bit of a basket case. I bawled during orientation because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to cut it in college, I had a slight nervous breakdown when my parents drove away from campus, and then I was so upset that I threw up every day for the first week of classes. So, considering my wealth of experience, I have composed this blog post to reflect what I think are some of the most helpful things to do to ward off homesickness as a new student.
Attitude is absolutely everything! This was the best piece of advice I got as a student. Now, I know I just told you that I was incredibly upset at the outset and I am now saying that I had a good attitude, but it is true. My determination to make things better was what kept me from giving in and packing up to go home while I could still drop my classes without penalty. If you make up your mind in advance that things will be good, then you will have a good experience. Decide that you will enjoy college, and somehow you will enjoy it regardless of the challenges you’re facing. I could have looked at my circumstances and given up very easily (because it was pretty rough that first week), but I stuck with it because I knew it was my decision to make it work or to give in to negativity.
Surround yourself with positivity because negative people will only feed the bad mood that is trying to set in. If you find people who are excited about college, you will find yourself becoming excited with them and soon enough you will forget that you were scared. Hanging around people who find the best in everything will actually shape your outlook and make you more positive by proxy. Don’t be afraid to put some distance between yourself and the people you don’t exactly mesh with because you are not required to be their friend.
Do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to cry during events (unless you’re actually injured, then you can cry as much as you want). If you have to cry (I did, no shame in it) then try to hold it back until you can be alone or until you’re at least not around a fun activity. You will bring yourself even more heartache by feeling the embarrassment of breaking down during activities everyone else is enjoying. It is also helpful to restrain yourself because if you focus on the activity, your feelings will subside. By controlling your feelings when it’s most important, you will then be able to reign them in much easier later on. But, if everyone is crying, then be my guest and bond over your mutual homesickness.
Don’t call your mom for the first few days because as much as she would love to hear from you, it will only make your adjustment harder. Focus on yourself and the new experiences for the first week and don’t interact much more than just making sure she knows you’re alive and emotionally stable. Your parents, guardians, siblings, etc. will understand that you need to break out of your shell and face the world on your own, so don’t worry about taking the time to adjust to your new environment.
Get involved from the outset! As soon as you can, join a club, make plans, sign up for a seminar, or do anything to take up the free time you would spend moping around. There are tons of activities for you to enjoy, but if you spend your time locked up studying all day then you’re going to give in to your homesickness and call your mom crying every day. Try as many new things as you can because this opportunity doesn’t come around very often.
Make fun plans to take your mind off things because having something to look forward to at the end of the week will keep you from feeling homesick. This is an age-old trick because it always works. A great movie coming out this week? Plan to see it with friends and make that your goal. Campus events? Find someone to drag along and participate. Get through the week so you can go to the lake, see a movie, hang out with awesome people, or even take a weekend trip to a neat destination. Once you establish this pattern, you will feel much happier during the week and it will take your mind off of what you might be missing at home.
Get to know the area ahead of time so that exploring or venturing out of your comfort zone won’t feel scary to you. Getting lost is stressful, so if you try to discover what is in your new community and how to navigate it, then you will adjust much quicker. I found myself getting very upset because I had difficulty navigating to Wal Mart and the closest Chick Fil A seemed impossible to find. The nearby towns were incredibly intimidating, so I spent too long being unfamiliar with the awesome activities around me.
Know that you won’t always feel this way, and that it is normal to feel homesick when you’re making a big jump like this. Family is important, and whether you’re moving out of the house to a college right down the road or moving across the country you will still have those feelings of strain because you’re not there every day. But, if you let it eat you alive then you won’t be able to get past it. I escaped the cycle of homesickness and came to love school so much that my parents had to visit me if they wanted to see me regularly. But, even after years of being away, I still feel homesick once in a while and it feels just like it did when I was watching my parents drive away at orientation.
And now a note for parents: On move-in day, I befriended the girl who lived in the room next door, another girl and her boyfriend, and two girls from upstairs. We formed a little survival group so that we could all feel like we had friends. We ate together, went to Wal Mart together, and generally overcame fears of adulthood and college together. The girl from next door never allowed herself to loosen up and relax. We all went to our first event together on the second day, all having fun in the moment, and she wanders off crying. When we find her she was bawling and her mom was on the way to pick her up. Moms, parents, whoever, please don’t give in. Her mom stayed through the first week. She didn’t adjust well to her roommate situation and her mom came to handle moving her to a different residence hall. After that, it was almost impossible to get her to join us for anything fun. She surrounded herself with negative people. Then, only 4 weeks into the semester, she made up her mind that she was going home and transferring. She dropped classes that wouldn’t transfer and took the minimum load. I couldn’t believe that she gave in so quickly, and after that she refused to get involved at all. She made herself miserable because her only goal was to go home at the end of the semester and never look back.
Don’t allow yourself to look at your situation like this. That was the downfall – a negative outlook and a poorly set goal. She was a good person, a nice friend, and had tons of potential, but my neighbor just could not make herself open up to the possibilities in front of her. I hope that she is doing well now that she has gone home, but I believe she could have done well at our school if she had known how to combat the homesickness ahead of time.