Ever been away everything that was familiar and comfortable about your life for an extended period of time? Do you ever feel homesick and want the constant love and support from your friends and family? Think things ever get better? These were the questions I constantly asked myself as I embarked on the college bandwagon and traveled 300 miles to Baltimore, Maryland to my future home for the next four years: Loyola University.
I felt extremely excited. With butterflies in my stomach, bright eyes and open arms, nothing could stop me from embracing new experiences and making new friends. But something wasn’t completely right. I flight a slight hesitation, inclinations of worry, anxiety and nerves.
At the time, I couldn’t quite understand what I felt. The excitement and longing for independence and a fresh start in my social and professional life made everything cloudy. Yet amidst all my excitement burned this little flicker of hesitation. When time came for my parents to leave and meeting my evergreen and group for the first time, this feeling started to intensify. But I was determined not to let it get in the way of having fun.
My first day alone flew by with a bunch of ice breakers, academic seminars and fun laughs shared by all. As the weekend progressed though, I found myself growing increasingly uneasy and experienced severe anxiety and panic attacks. I’d never felt this way before. Making memories with my messina group and leader Anna helped me have fun, but the insomnia, anxiety and nerves still got worse. Even after constantly FaceTimeing my parents nothing could shake these out-of-place feelings.
Once classes began, I was excited to meet all my new professors and finally get into a routine. Of course I had a few nerves here and there, I mean I was finally adulting, but all-in-all I felt successful. I made friends in all my classes, saw Anna and met her friends, even went to the gym and even did laundry…without having to call my parents for help.
When the first weekend rolled around that’s when things went downhill. That first Saturday I sat on the second floor common space, frivolously doing homework, when I got this horrible, anxious feeling. I started getting chest pains which escalated to a full blown panic attack. I couldn’t breathe. No matter what I did, walking around and doing laps, nothing calmed me down. That moment I knew I was homesick.
Homesickness is extremely common among college freshman—even upperclassmen–but I never thought I would get homesick. I’d been away from my family before. I spent two weeks in Ecuador and went on mission trips to Indiana with my youth group and never experienced any issues. But being in a new environment, and realizing that this isn’t a temporary trip for a few days or a week, changed all of that. Loyola was going to be my new home for the next four years, and the people around me were about to become my new family.
No matter how excited you may be about college, even the most independent individuals, like myself, can find themselves struck with homesickness. Moving away from home for the first time, adjusting to a life of new schedules, extended periods of free time and breaks in between classes took a toll on me. Life would be much simpler if I could crawl into that extra-small twin bed and tuck myself under the covers to avoid life. I, and many other college students, don’t have the luxury of being able to go home every weekend. So when I miss home, how do I cope? While I am still figuring it out, I’ve developed and perfected a few tips and tricks that alleviate some of my stress.
First, just recognize that what you’re experiencing is entirely normal. According to Dr. Klapow, a clinical psychologist, “even if no one’s saying, chances are most people are feeling various degrees of homesickness at one point or another. Feeling homesick is part of learning to live a new life–you can’t do it without going through some sort of adjustment period.” Once you know that you’re homesick, you can take the necessary steps towards resolving it
But you can’t adjust to your new home by restricting yourself to your little dorm room. Going for walks, exploring campus and getting a feel for your surroundings are easy first steps. Finding secret study spots for when you’re tired of the library, coffee shops with the shortest lines or even quite spots to clear your head make feel like you belong on that campus, which you do.
Still, even the most comfortable of us just miss mom and dad despite feeling “at home” in college. I struggled with wanting to text or call home every day. Even if I didn’t have anything in particular to talk to them about, I just wanted to hear my parents’ voice. Maintaining relationships with friends and family at home help, but part of getting over homesickness is learning to be okay on your own. Stay in touch with those back home, but only in moderation. Challenge yourself in small increments to refrain from talking to your family. Eventually you’ll find yourself calling maybe only once a week. The longer you go without connection, the more you’ll be compelled to be actively involved and present on campus.
Lastly, talk to other students. Seeing social media posts of people out with friends, partying, at sporting events and having the time of their life make feeling alone all the worse. However, you’d be surprised how many other freshman feel the same way. And with the amount of people who share your fears, an equal amount share your interests. Reach out to your friends and form a new camaraderie to fight your bouts of homesickness together. If I hadn’t told Anna, my group leader, about my panic attack that Saturday night, I’m not sure where I would be.
More often than not, especially in my case, people misjudge or misinterpret what it means to be homesick. Being homesick is about missing that part of your life that’s “normal,” comfortable and what you’re used to. You long for what’s familiar to you. Just remember that homesickness is an extremely normal reaction to periods of rapid transition and adjustment–like starting your freshman year of college. But the more active and engaged you are in school and activities, the less you’ll want to go home. And in the end you will be much happier.