You slam your dorm door behind your parents after they help you out with moving in. “Bye, Mom and Dad!” For a few days, you dance around your room at 2 a.m. listening to your new Back-to-School Spotify playlist and eat peanut butter with your friends while you catch up with stories about your summer shenanigans. But after the novelty of moving back to school fades away, reality sets in. Whether it’s your freshman or your senior year, getting homesick in college can strike at any time, but there are always foolproof ways to ward off the homesick bug—or at least forget you’re bumming for a while.
1. Keep up with the local news
You might constantly see your fellow students tweeting about the local elections or complaining about things going on in your #campusbubble, but what about what’s going on back home? Keeping in touch with your hometown doesn’t always just mean keeping in touch with family. “You feel even further away from home when you realize major things have happened that you don’t even know about,” University of Wisconsin-Green Bay junior Taylor Ponczoch said. Set up a news alert on your phone or filter your news feed on Facebook to stay in touch with what’s going on outside of your high school squad.
2. Get your home vibe on
Maybe you’re going to NYU when you grew up on a farm or you’re studying in the middle of nowhere when you’ve been riding the subway since age five. In college, staying in your comfort zone can be very hard, but returning to it once in a while doesn’t hurt. “I like to spend time outdoors and in botanic gardens because they both remind me of home, and the open space and trees are what I miss the most,” Northwestern junior and St. Louis native Erin Gregory said. That’s right–plant a tree or just take in the sights and sounds, but don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.
3. Get your Netflix on
But this ain’t just any Netflix and chill sesh. Break out a show or movie that takes place in your hometown, whether you’re from a small town on the east coast like Gilmore Girls or a southern football town like Friday Night Lights. “I like to watch Ukrainian shows and movies. It makes me feel so much better,” Northwestern junior and Ukrainian native Anelia Kudin said. With all the movies and shows available for streaming nowadays, there’s bound to be something that reminds you of home. That 70’s Show, here I come.
4. Try your hand at a home-cooked meal
Sure, you probably never appreciated that meatloaf after the thousandth time you’ve had to eat it, but trying your hand at cooking like mama can make you feel like you’re literally in your house. Smell memory doesn’t just work when you realize that frat boy wears the same cologne as your ex. It also can work in your favor when you’re trying to feel the comfort of a familiar dinner. So whip out that crockpot and those oven mitts and try your hand at making your mom’s signature dish–the cheesier and more fattening, the better.
5. Skype, Skype, Skype
With those countless meetings to attend and homework assignments due, finding time to call your family and friends at home is downright impossible, let alone actually sitting down face-to-face with them. But a few minutes on Skype can have a greater effect than a whole hour on the phone if you’re really feeling homesick. Just seeing a familiar face reminds you that you’re not so far from home and that your loved ones are with you no matter what.
6. Make a playlist
Come on, you know you and your high school friends went through your phases of musical obsessions. I can tell you that Eminem and One Direction were crowding up our workout playlists (they make a better match than you think, I swear). When you spend that much time with people, your taste in music begins to influence each other, and it’s hard to let that go just because you’re going to a new school. Well, luckily Spotify exists, and you can still make that playlist to remember all the hits you belted out with your friends at prom or on the way to a football game.
7. Give in and go home
If you’re lucky enough to live a short train or car ride away from home, don’t be ashamed to take advantage of a weekend spent on your couch watching singing reality shows with your mom. “I’ve never really gotten homesick because I live so close to school,” Northwestern senior Rosalie Chan said. “If I really wanted to go home, I could go whenever I wanted to.” Sure, that frat party might be calling your name or maybe you made plans to go shopping with your friends in the city. But if you really can’t shake that feeling of homesickness, your friends will understand.
8. Believe you are happy
“Fake it ‘til you make it” actually helps when you’re down in the dumps about missing home. Think about it–don’t you feel just a little bit happier when you smile, even if you’re not feeling the greatest? “I never really feel homesick. Believing you’ll be happier now than where you came from is a good strategy,” Northwestern sophomore Emily Feng said. Soon enough, you’ll have that group chat blowing up with your friends and forget all about what’s waiting for you at home.
9. Talk to a professional
If your homesickness persists and you don’t actually have the opportunity to make it home, you can try talking to a professional at your school about the problem. Maybe talking to your friends at college just makes you miss your old friends more. If that’s the case, try a walk-in session with a therapist on campus or even bring up the subject with a professor or advisor you trust. Odds are you’ll find someone who’s been in the same situation. And just think, they had to deal with it before they could scroll Facebook feeds and text their friends to remind them of home.
10. Just embrace it
When you’re cramming for that midterm on a Tuesday night, you can’t easily make it home, whether it’s a fifteen-minute drive or a 1500-mile flight. What you can do is accept the situation and remember why you chose to go to such an awesome school. “It’s only natural to crave the familiar, so embrace the fact that your body is just basically responding in a normal way,” University of Wisconsin-Madison junior Catherine Zastrow said. Homesickness might make you feel totally alone, but just remember that you’re lucky to have an awesome home and a kick-ass school to divide your time.