Student Counseling Center

Homesickness

You've Made it, You're in College! Excitement... Transition... Adjustment... But Sometimes, You Get Homesick

Definition: a preoccupation with thinking about home; yearning for and grieving over the loss of people, pets, possessions, favorite places, routines; and the realization that family life is going on without you. The familiar acceptance and security you depend on and perhaps take for granted is missing, which can make coping with the newness and challenges more difficult.

Signs: You might have depressed feelings, anxiety, obsessive thoughts and minor physical ailments similar to depression. The difference is that you feel with depression at school and at home; but with homesickness the lowness at college typically lifts when you're at home.

The Process: It varies. Some students may start feeling sad and anxious even before they leave home; others feel it very soon after the semester gets going, and still others may be taken by surprise with a delayed onset of homesick thoughts and feelings. Most frequently, however, it starts in the first days and weeks of the first year. But commonly it is the first few days or weeks after arriving at a university that are the most difficult.

Risk Factors include the distance from home, a sense of anticlimax at finally arriving at a university after working towards it for so long, degree of desire to be at the particular college or in college at all, disappointed expectations about what things would be like, feeling overloaded with responsibilities, whether family members at home are well and happy, contrast in lifestyle, such as too much or too little structure and/or freedom compared to home.

Ways to Help Yourself:

  • Remember that many other people will be sharing similar feelings, although you may assume that they are doing fine! (You can't read their minds - just as they can't read yours!)
  • You are allowed to feel sad and homesick! Give yourself time to adjust – you don't have to get everything right immediately. Do not rush into making major decisions about staying or leaving.
  • Be realistic about what to expect from student life and from yourself. Establish a balance between work and leisure.
  • If work is proving too difficult, get comprehension and study tips from professors, academic counselors and tutors.
  • Remember to get enough food and sleep! These affect us emotionally as well as physically.
  • Make contacts and friends through shared activities such as sport or other interests. There are enough clubs and organizations at Hampton to find something that suits your particular interests. At the start of the academic year many new people will be joining - you are unlikely to be the only new person.
  • If you stop being able to do normal social and academic things, seek professional help either from your doctor or the psychological counseling service. Don't wait until the problems have grown impossibly large!
  • Familiarize yourself with your new surroundings. Invite others to walk around with you. You will feel more in control if you know where buildings, classes, and services are.
  • Examine your expectations. We'd all like to be popular, well-dressed, well-organized, well-adjusted, but setting a goal of perfection is the most predictable way of creating trouble for yourself. Laugh at your mistakes. You're learning.
  • Don't wait for lingering homesickness to go away by itself. Buried problems often emerge later disguised as headaches, fatigue, illness, or lack of motivation.  Visit the Student Counseling Center on the second floor of the Armstrong-Slater Building to chat with a Counselor.

Sources:
University of Tulsa Counseling Center
University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire Counseling Services