Dear Homesick Student,
You’re meeting new people every day, getting to know the layout of the campus and soaking up what it means to be a college student.
Then, bam. One chilly Tuesday morning, you’re walking back from class thinking about how hard that test you just took was when you hear a certain familiar song playing from a building. That song reminds you of your family. You spend your whole walk home thinking about all of the fun memories you had together, and just how “easy” everything seemed back in the “good ole’ days.”
Feeling homesick can come in waves.
It can hit you randomly on a walk back from class. It feels different from anything you have really experienced before. It doesn’t feel like sadness or loneliness. Instead, it’s wishing you appreciated what you had before it left. Not to say that college sucks, but you still feel like home is where your heart is.
Maybe you just don’t feel ready to give up that part of life. After all, your home represents all that you are. It’s where you grew up, celebrated holidays, used as a safe haven to come to after a horrible day and most importantly, spent time with your family.
And now you feel thrust into this new world. And it’s a whole lot scarier. Of course, college is a little less scary than the true “real world,” but it’s still a big adjustment. You no longer have your mom to cook you her ooey-gooey grilled cheese after a long day of school. Instead, you grab another granola bar from your smelly dorm bin. If only you had a toaster.
To help with this, you decide to call your mom. It feels so great to hear her voice and hear about the goings-ons back home. But you find that the more you talk and hear about the different things you’ve missed out on, the more homesick you feel.
It’s another morning as you stroll to class, and as soon as you step outside the air feels perfectly crisp and smells like the ideal Autumn day. Your mind instantly rewinds to your childhood. Jumping into an enormous pile of leaves, your dad rakes up an entirely new pile to crash into. You remember going to the pumpkin patch every year and carving pumpkins, dressing up for Halloween with your neighborhood friends and returning home frozen but filled with candy.
But instead of eating candy with your family, you find yourself alone in this unfamiliar place.
Feeling homesick is not weird. It’s normal. And I should know, because this is a letter to myself, and you.
Coming to college, I expected to feel homesick. After all, Penn State wasn’t even my first choice, so it’s not like I felt impatient to get here. The way I experienced this feeling surprised me most of all. I expected to feel homesick by simply longing to be at home. While that was true at times, my life at college did not feel real, and my life at home still felt like my life.
I felt this when my parents came up to visit for the first time. I practically burst with excitement to finally see them and I loved having them there with me. The hardest, and weirdest, part for me happened when they had to leave. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that they had to leave me to go home, while I had to hug them goodbye and walk back to my dorm.
It felt like reality gave me a slap in the face and said, “Stop living in the past! You’re in COLLEGE now!”
I suddenly missed just being a kid. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I love about college. But one day I heard a certain Bruce Springsteen song that made me think of my dad, and how much we danced to the song years ago. Simply thinking about that song triggered so many memories for me. I began to see childhood memories everywhere I walked. A part of me wishes I could rewind time and go back before life got so complicated.
Homesickness, at least for me, feels like all of my memories, from my eighth birthday party to a fun day from senior year of high school, swirled back into my mind slowly, then all at once. It served as a friendly reminder that I need to appreciate these moments, these moments so special you don’t even realize it while they happen because someday I am going to wish I could live college all over again.
Feeling homesick in college can be hard. It can feel exhausting when you have had the worst day, and you can only talk to your sister through a Facetime call with a bad connection. You miss the times where you could just walk across the hall to chat.
Feeling homesick has taught me something—to soak up every moment. Maybe not while it happens. But afterward, reflect on it. Because I promise you, you’ll miss it one day. Reminiscing about the past provides that sweet nostalgia that everyone needs. But don’t forget to make time to focus on the present, too.
Go out and do things in college. Get involved. Make plans with friends. Workout at the gym. Get out of your dorm room. Make yourself busy to distract from any of these sad feelings and instead make yourself happy with where you are.
Create memories and moments in college, remember to appreciate them and never take anything for granted. One day, you and I, while walking to our new job, might see or hear or taste something. And it will remind us of a college memory. And we’ll miss it, of course, because we will be stuck in the “real” world.
I know you feel homesick. So do I. But don’t let that keep you in the past. Instead, use it to remind yourself of life’s greatness. But only if we give ourselves the opportunities to make memories that we later look back on with a smile.
The Homesick but Happy Student