You see it all the time in the movies. The parents drop their child off at college and you watch as the main character begins the next chapter of their life. Maybe they join an a cappella group. Maybe they meet a brooding love interest and fall madly in love. Whatever the plot may be, they always find a way to make the most out of their college experience, and you should too. However, you may feel overwhelmed when living away from home for the first time. Don’t worry.
Check out these tips on how to battle homesickness and have as much fun as possible.
1. Set New Goals and Explore Yourself
Not very often in life do you get a clean slate, so take advantage of it. If you have new habits or routines that you want to implement, college acts as a great time to start. Been wanting to start going for weekly walks or runs? Go for it. Starting healthy habits at the beginning of your college experience will set you up for success.
“Like you’re in a new space with totally new people so if you have new goals or new things you want to work on or new parts of your identity you want to explore, it’s like literally the best time for that because you’re in a place without expectation,” Drake University senior Becks Gatewood said. “Like nobody has ideas about what you’re going to say or what you’re going to wear tomorrow or anything like that and so leaning into the fact that there aren’t those expectations already placed on you and knowing that this is a time to explore.”
One exciting factor of college includes people not having preconceived notions about you. Now that doesn’t mean you need to completely reinvent yourself. However, if you want to try something new, go for it. Try out that new style or take a shot at a new sport. College presents you with so many new opportunities, and you might end up learning a thing or two about yourself.
2. Communicate With Your Roommate
For many incoming first years, you need to navigate living with a roommate for the first time. Believe it or not, constantly sharing a tight quarter with someone can get difficult at times. It may get extra awkward if you get assigned a random roommate. As time goes on, you two will figure out what works best for you. No matter what, make sure to remember to talk to each other.
“Just communicate about everything, and like you’re both adults, you both are sharing a space. This is a great way to learn some conflict-resolution,” Drake University senior Natalie Novak said. “Anybody you’re roommates with you’re probably going to get annoyed with at some point, so also just be aware of that. Even if it’s your best friends, you’ll probably get sick of them at some point. So, make sure you’re finding time to have time to yourself if that’s what you need, or spend time away from them; take some space when you need it.”
If your roommate does something that annoys you, let them know. Of course, do so in a polite manner. If you don’t know your roommate very well going into it, take some time to ask each other questions about your daily routines and habits. If you find out your roommate likes to stay up late and you don’t, discuss how you will manage that. Consider talking to your roommate about cleanliness. You don’t want your room smelling like dirty socks now, do you?
3. Find Traces of Home
Homesickness can hit you like a truck. You may start to feel comfortable in your new place, and then bam. You start missing your family and friends and everything that you left back home. Practically everyone goes through this, so don’t feel discouraged. One way to battle homesickness includes making college feel more like home. Figure out your favorite aspects of your home and try to recreate that here.
“I would say the things that I loved at home are still things that I love here. And now what I do is I just apply them in a new context,” Gatewood said. “And so sometimes that takes exploring the things that truly bring you joy and know that you can find notes of those wherever you go.”
A lot of times doing what you love makes an unfamiliar space feel more like home. If you loved going to coffee shops back home, do that at college. Maybe even invite some new people along with you. If you just need to hear a familiar voice, remember you can call them. If you have a favorite show you like to watch with your sibling, you can still do that. Use websites like Scener to watch that next episode of She-Hulk together.
4. Decorate Your Dorm Room
Moving into your dorm gets super stressful. Deciding what to bring and what not to bring becomes overwhelming. Decorating your dorm can turn into a super exciting opportunity to showcase your personality and what you love. Another great way to battle homesickness includes making your room super cozy. Your room should make you feel comforted and relaxed after a long day of seemingly never-ending classes.
“Make your space feel the way you want it to because that can also be a very alienating and isolating thing when, especially when you first move in and all you see are these white walls and the standardized furniture and stuff,” Drake University junior Olivia Nole said. “And you know not everyone is going to like that kind of stuff. Other people are not going to like that or they aren’t going to want to do it or they can’t afford to do it and that’s completely fine. But if you feel like that’s something that you would like to do, I encourage it because sometimes your space can really dictate how you’re feeling or how you are processing information.”
Have fun with decorating. Go on shopping trips with some new friends to find posters, string lights and other knick-knacks to put in your room. However, don’t feel like you need your room finished ASAP. Take your time with it. Add to your walls throughout the year to remind yourself of the new memories you make.
5. Allow Yourself Some Alone Time
The busyness of college may make it easy to feel like you need to do more. You might feel like you need to take on many things or you need to join more clubs. However, don’t neglect your mental health and personal well-being. If you want to spend your Saturday night watching Netflix in bed, don’t feel guilty about it. Do what makes you happy.
6. Make To-Do Lists
If you never use a planner, rethink your choices. It might just save your life. Your classes bombard you with work, and writing everything down helps you remember what you need to do. Also, checking things off feels rewarding. The simple things in life can bring you joy.
“And you can see a tangible way to check that kind of stuff off and be like, ‘Yeah, I did actually do a lot today and I was fairly productive,’” Nole said. “And you can parse things out or portion things out so they don’t overwhelm you before the due date, especially with really long readings and such.”
If you want to get really fancy, try using some fun-colored pens and highlighters. Some people also really enjoy bullet journaling. Get those artistic juices flowing and create some really cool spreads. Oh, and stickers. Use lots of stickers. You can also download some great check-list apps that’ll give you notifications to hold you accountable.
7. Check Out Your Campus Resources
Many college campuses offer services and resources that could make your life so much easier. Need someone to talk to about stress and anxiety? Your college might offer free counseling services. Want to talk to someone about internship opportunities? Reach out to your professors. Make sure to take advantage of your professors’ office hours. Just going to them and introducing yourself on the first week can help you establish a good professor-student relationship. And if you find yourself struggling with your homework, speak up. That’s what office hours are for. Don’t forget to talk to your advisors. They can help you plan out your class schedules and make sure that you pursue the best major for you.
8. Get Involved on Campus
One of the best ways to make friends includes getting involved in campus activities and clubs. There you will find like-minded people who share your interests. Don’t let fear prevent you from striking up a conversation. Don’t feel intimidated to engage with those around you. You never know who you’ll meet. Also, don’t become discouraged if it takes you a long time to find your core group of friends.
“As scary as it is, just strike up conversation. It’s not easy for everyone but a lot of times, like especially within those first few weeks, everyone in your class is going to be in the same boat,” Nole said. “It’s not like high school where you know everyone from the previous grade, most of these people are from different areas and it’s a fresh start essentially. So, strike up that conversation. Ask about what they’re wearing, or what their majors are, so kind of like small talk, but that’s not for everyone obviously. But just kind of, if I use like a metaphor, kind of just jump in the pool. At least that’s how it worked out for me for sure.”
Your college campus hosts so many cool events throughout the year. Most of the time you get to attend them for free. Go to that school carnival. Go to some football games. Don’t knock it before you try it.
9. Find Things To Look Forward To
Don’t want the weeks to feel like they drag on? Plan something to look forward to within the week. Plan a weekly Friday movie night with your friends. That way, you have an incentive to get you through your classes during the week. Making fun traditions with your friends helps college feel more like home.
10. Go Easy on Yourself
When you start college, you must adjust to being on your own. You might get carried away with your new-found freedom. Learning how to balance your academic life with your social life takes time and practice. Don’t get upset with yourself if you make mistakes. Part of the college experience involves discovering your limits and what works best for you.
“It’s okay to make mistakes. Have grace with yourself because you’re just figuring everything out. Even though you feel like you’re a grown up and stuff you really are just a kid still, especially when this is really your first shot at being an adult,” Novak said. “You’ll probably mess up, you’ll probably do stupid things, you’ll probably fail a test, you’ll probably miss a class because you slept through it or something. And I just think it’s important to have grace with yourself, but also make sure that you are keeping your priorities and if you’re a person where school is really important to you, make sure you’re staying true to that and being the student-wannabe.”
Remember to learn from your mistakes. Reflect on what went wrong and how you can do better next time. Don’t let your bad choices become habit. Need help with accountability? Talk with your friends and set goals for yourselves and keep each other on track. You’ve got this.