Homesickness is kind of inevitable when you’re starting college, as you’re moving to a new place and leaving your family and friends behind for the very first time.
"For some who have never been away from home for long, who may have never left their hometown before, just physically going to college can be a really big deal. Being in a new town, a different state, a completely unique subculture of the country can be a huge cultural adjustment for many people," says Julie Zeilinger, author of College 101: A Girl's Guide to Freshman Year.
Feeling sad or lonely is totally expected, but there are ways to make it bearable when you’re first starting out.
1. Do some recon of your new town
Living in a new place can be challenging for a lot of reasons, but sometimes it’s just the simple things that make it difficult. In your hometown, you probably already know where the grocery store and post office are, but in a new place, even the most basic things can be hard to locate. The best way to make your transition easier is to visit your new home before you move there and look around for the everyday places you might need. Just knowing where the doctor’s office, grocery store and local retailers are will give you a sense of comfort once you’re settled in.
Finding new places to hang out and putting yourself out there might feel impossible when all you want to do is go home to your own bed, but making your mark on your new town will help you feel more like a local. Check out the local coffee shops and cafes, because having a nook you can call your own will make all the difference when you need to get out of the house.
2. Fill your schedule
Don’t stay in and watch Netflix all the time! While it might be tempting to hole up in your room and wallow in your homesickness all weekend, make an attempt to get out and talk to someone new at least once because isolating yourself will only lead to feeling more alone at the end of the day. According to Makena Gera, a sophomore at Marist College, getting out of your room is the best way to beat homesickness.
She says, “The way I avoided homesickness as at the beginning of my freshman year was to just keep myself really busy. I avoided going back to my room, went to all the events, spent time doing homework around other people, etc. If you’re always doing something you won’t have time to dwell on missing home (and you’ll meet a lot more people that way too)!”
Tygre Perl, a junior at Loyola Marymount University, agrees. "Make plans!" she says. "Ask someone to go out or even go to one of the school's pre-organized activities. If you don't have as much free time, you won't have as much time to think about being homesick. If you aren't a naturally social person, getting a job can even be a good way to meet people and keep busy."
3. Pick a goal to work on
Give yourself a distraction to focus on by setting a challenge for yourself or starting a project you’ve been putting off. Whether it’s finally starting that scrap book you’ve been talking about making or sticking to your exercise regime, having a project will keep you busy and getting involved in a hobby will help you find like-minded people in your new town.
Whatever your goal may be, don’t forget to put yourself out there and make it known that you’re open to trying it out with a buddy. Even though it might feel obvious to you, others might not know that you’re hoping to make new friends. Keep your dorm room door open to let people know you’re open to hanging out or studying together. Even hanging a little chalk board or white board sign on your door with an offer for people to leave their contact info when you’re not there will make it easier for people to approach you. If you're hoping to check out an upcoming campus event and want someone to tag along, write an advertisement on the sign and someone with similar interests might come along. Remember, you're probably not the only shy person on your hall!
4. Use the resources available
Even though it might seem silly or obvious, asking your RA or any campus life advisers for help connecting with people or suggestions of where to find friends who have similar interests is a great idea! That is what these people are there for, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Most likely, they will know of a club or group you could join related to your interests that you might not have even heard of.
When I transferred to my new college, I decided to ask my RA how I could get more involved on campus. After we talked about my interests, he was so excited to suggest I join a brand-new book club one of the other RAs was starting up. If I hadn’t spoken to him, I would’ve had no idea about the club since it was too new to be advertised at any of the club fairs on campus.
5. Know it's okay to be homesick
"Even for those who have been away from home before, going to college can cause a unique type of homesickness," Zeilinger says. "You know things will never be the same again. You begin to long not only for familiar physical surroundings, but also for that feeling of home: You long for the feeling of being taken care of as much as you wish you lived in a place that didn’t feel like a clinical institution (linoleum, cinderblocks, unidentifiable stains, and all)."
No matter what, don’t be ashamed of feeling a little homesick because everyone does sometimes. As Zeilinger puts it, "Feeling homesick is totally and completely normal. Although at first it may feel like it will last forever, homesickness will subside. You’ll soon be so busy—with school, with new friends, with new opportunities—that you’ll forget to miss home. And after some more time passes, school will even start to feel like home."
So just remember not to let missing your old home interfere with enjoying your new home. One day, you’ll wake up and you’ll realize you’ve made this new place a home too, just in a different way, so make sure to give it some time and let your new town grow on you.