You only have a few hours left to finish that 1,000-word essay due at midnight. But you can’t stop thinking about your mom’s home-cooked meals. When the stress kicks in, you start to feel homesick. Faces flood your memory and thoughts follow behind. Thirty minutes later, you realize you have 10 minutes left to conclude, save, find the file and submit while simultaneously pondering the intensifying thought to take a trip back home.
Does feeling homesick mean you’re not ready for college?
Not everyone experiences homesickness to the same degree. But it does make adjusting to college more difficult. “Common challenges experienced by students include: adjustment to a larger campus community they must learn to navigate, adjusting to new schedules, harder subjects and changes in relationships,” said University of Florida’s Marriage and Family Therapist Dr. Rosa West.
So you start thinking more and more about home after visiting home for spring break. Does that mean you’re not ready for the independent college life? “This occurrence is not about missing home; rather it is more about the loss of simpler, comfortable times,” said West. Many times, we as young adults aren’t fully aware of our emotions. And many times we deal with our issues—big or small in isolation.
Good news: College students who feel homesick can still succeed.
Make the transition to campus life won’t be the hardest situation life throws at us. But universities know it’s still difficult, so they make a point to help. “Most students are strong and resilient, already going to college with resources and support that can assist them in doing well,” said West.
And guess what? Mastering your homesickness can also prepare you for the real world. West said, “For example, students who have healthy academic confidence and realistic expectations about the college experience may be better equipped to manage challenges with difficult courses. Another factor which may help students with their transition, are supportive and stable relationships maintained both at home and within the college community.”
And many other college students feel homesickness just like you.
Let’s hear from some college students who have their fair share of juggling school and homesickness—or the lack thereof.
“When I first began college, it was bittersweet. I was a bit sad to be away from home but I enjoyed the new freedoms and independence that I gained. Entering college, I realized that I had to do everything on my own but it never was a stressful experience for me. My parents stressed how important is it to be independent so I learned to do a lot of things on my own which prepared me for adulthood. There was never really a big difference with home and college that made my transition difficult.” – Keith McIntosh, sophomore, University of Florida
“I started out very naïve as I started school, thinking that it would be an easy adaptation, much like high school. But I think at a university like the University of Florida, you have to learn to live on your own and survive on your own, regardless of how much you miss home. I think after my first year, I really started to buckle down and have a set way of studying that would help me in my success as I go through school.” – Michael Carter, sophomore, University of Florida
Tips on Dealing With The Homesick Feels
If you do miss home often or if you simply desire to ease your transition to college, try these tips from Dr. West.
- Visit home 1-2 times per semester (subject to change depending on the individual’s reliance on home)
- Schedule periodical video-calls/FaceTime/webcam sessions with relatives
- Attend family weeks sponsored by your college
- Make time to form a supportive on-campus group of friends
- Consider your campus resources (e.g. a Counseling & Wellness Center)
“For some students, home and family may be key parts of their identify and/or what is culturally appropriate,” said West. “Families should find ways to maintain a healthy connection with their student while they are away.” You’ll most likely experience your fair share of the homesickness bug spreading throughout campus—especially during your first semester. Tackle it headfirst and let yourself live that independent college life.