For a young person, it can be a difficult transition from home to school, from high school to college, from college to work and so on. The cushion comfort of home, the homemade yummy food, the love of parents and a best buddy at school or coaching, a childhood friend, the girlfriend whom you thought you’ll never leave – everything slowly fades away as you move forward in life and you start missing your past.
However much movies might romanticize college, my case is that in school you have a lot of freedom that isn’t necessarily there in college. You don’t really miss anything major while being sick or missing a few days of school (Try doing that in college and you’ll find yourself unable to comprehend what’s going around you when you return). At school, you probably know everyone in your class. If you’re decent enough, the teachers know your name. If you try decently hard, you will get good grades. You get a mandatory lunch-break where you share your food or even pounce on others’ while you chat away. A note or a formal letter from your parents solves most problems(and then how many problems do you really have?!) You can copy most of your lab manual and assignments. And much much more.
College is a whole different ballgame. It has its own set of norms. Two missed classes and the next one registers a total bland on your brain – take a week off and you might as well move to a different galaxy!) It would take an absolute superhuman to remember the names of a hundred students of your batch. Professors hardly ever know your name. Most colleges have relative grading, so an A or even anything in its proximity it is a distant dream. Any mischief is met with stern action by the college. And don’t even think about copying the assignments, it’s called ‘plagiarism’ – and you can be suspended or at worst expelled! Welcome to college!
No matter how excited you may be about college life, even the most independent freshmen can find themselves struck with homesickness. As Dr. Josh Klapow, an Alabama-based clinical psychologist explains. Rather, according to him, “Homesickness is thoughts and feeling about home, a very normal reaction to periods of rapid change and adjustment—like starting your freshman year of college.” The sickening feeling that many experience is not just about home, it is also about the lack of the normal and comfortable that one finds missing in a new setting. It is deep urge to go back to the familiar. Moving away from home for the first time, adjusting to a college workload and setting up a brand new daily routine all take their toll, and sometimes, all you want to do is crawl into your bed with your bowl of noodles at home. A lot of college students (sometimes read as victims) don’t have the luxury of just heading home whenever they feel like it.
Dr Klapow goes on to explain further “It (homesickness) exists on a continuum— it isn’t a matter of being of homesick or not; it’s matter of degree. At its most severe, homesickness can manifest itself as obsessive thoughts, crying at what seem like random times and an inability to do what you came to college to do – go to classes, make new friends, learn about yourself and, ultimately, earn a degree.”
Missing your past?
All these things can spiral a student into a deep nostalgia or even depression in extreme circumstances. Here’s how to cope with it –
1. You’re not sick, understand what you’re going through is normal:
Chances are most people are feeling, in varying degrees, homesickness at one point or another even if no one’s saying anything. Feeling homesick is part of learning to live a new life – you can’t do it without going through some sort of adjustment period. In order to stop missing your past and learn to live a new life, from starting college to moving to a new city for a job, acknowledging and accepting your homesickness is the key that unlocks the way. Once you know, you can start to work towards getting over it.
2. Get used to your new surroundings:
The more you feel like your campus “belongs” to you, the more comfortable you’ll feel at college. A very big part of this nostalgia is feeling uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. Get more familiar with your college’s campus and the surrounding area by walking around and exploring, either alone or with friends. When you get tired of the library, go to the cool little cafes to grab lunch in when you’re running late and find the quiet spots to clear your head. Avoid hibernating in your room.
3. Make a space for yourself at college:
Most students get so used to being someone that everyone knows in high school that they don’t realize that they actually need to reach out and make friends. Once you came out of your shell and involve yourself with some organizations, it can be so much more relaxing and you’ll start to feel familiar with your environs. There are a number of different ways you can occupy your time to build a routine and stop feeling lonely. Look into opportunities on campus, intramural sports and or even the drama club. Filling up your social calendar and hanging out with people who have similar interests as you will help you feel less lonely and help you make new friends and thus, will help you to stop missing your past.
You long for home because at home you’re sure of yourself and how you fit into the world around you. The anxiety of not knowing everything and everyone around you can catch you off guard at college, but actively working at getting comfortable and developing a routine for yourself can curb your homesick feelings. If you sit on the sidelines, you’ll have more time to think about being sad. Talk to people and throw yourself into activities and before you know it, you’ll be too busy to be homesick! When you’re having fun, you’re less likely to spend time thinking about people and things you miss.
4. Read a lot of books, just for fun:
Yes, read! You feel you’ve been reading for years, but this time read what YOU want to read, not what’s imposed upon you. Don’t care if it’s even trashy romance novels, books about history, or self-help books. Feed your brain with pleasurable reading (rather than endless days of binge watching movies and TV series). Take note of what you are reading and why you’re reading it. Use this information (rather than your college major) to identify your genuine likes, and let those things influence you. This is one of the most effective ways to stop missing your past.
5. Make a bucket list and get weird:
Do things you would never get to do when things got in the way. Get as creative as you’d like on this one; you’ll never have this much fun again. Take risks and do things you’ve never done before. You never know where life will take you when you get out of your comfort zone. This will definitely get your attention away from missing your past.
6. Get reacquainted with your passions:
You’ve been so bogged down by your hard work at school that you haven’t had taken the time to get back to YOU. Now is the time. That weird highly ambitious storybook you have had in your mind for a long time, the desire to learn a music instrument, that push to learn swimming etc. Just start. You’ll always find a lot of peers to give you company and to guide you along the way.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to fill down-time and get happy. It doesn’t necessarily need to be done in a traditional sense (i.e., apply for a structured program and work scheduled hours at a facility). If you love fashion, you could start guest posting on fashion blogs. If you love math, you can tutor some kids. Giving leads to awesome things. You will meet great new people who share your interests, which leads to a positive attitude, new business connections and something to take your mind off of the nostalgic blues. There is no downside in volunteering!
8. Stay connected with home—but not too connected:
Probably sounds obvious, right? But when you’re away for a long time you don’t realize how quickly making a phone call can slip your mind. Call your parents regularly, usually around the same time everyday, if possible, so they know when to expect it. Maintaining your relationships with your family and friends from back home is important in helping you abate missing your past, but part of getting over homesickness is severing (overly)emotional ties from home.
This separation is a part of learning to live differently, not just being away of home. Touching base with your friends and family back home will help you feel connected and not like everyone from back home has forgotten about you. Weaning yourself off of contacting your family daily, it is a good place to start.
9. Bring something that reminds you of home:
Have photos in your room, maybe on a desk, a beach sign, and a blanket you never slept without. When you start missing your past, familiar faces and places, you’ll have a little bit of home right there with you! Just don’t over-do it. There’s a lot of life to be lived at campus!
10. Talk to other students (or professionals) on campus
If you’re uncomfortable talking or even opening up to other students about your homesickness, reach out to professionals on campus. For some, talking to mental health professionals like on-campus psychologists can hold a stigma, but seeking out a professional to talk to doesn’t mean you have a psychiatric problem. Homesickness is a common issue – believe me, you won’t be the first person that on-campus psychologists have spoken to or helped. That human connection with someone who understands what you’re going through can help move you out of a homesick rut and stop missing your past.
Try try approaching them from a different angle. Mentioning that you’re looking for ways to keep yourself occupied or asking for suggestions for cool clubs and on-campus opportunities can help you get over your homesickness by focusing on ways to stop yourself from dwelling on it. Reaching out to your friends can help you form a new camaraderie and fight your bouts of homesickness together. Talking to other people who are going through the same things as you can help, and you may even strike up a friendship with some people you meet.
11. Stay positive. It will get better!
Many college students don’t give themselves time to deal with these emotions. It is uncomfortable, but for the most part, you’re fine. Don’t let it consume you. Moving away from home, starting a new life and adjusting to college classes isn’t easy, but it gets easier! You’ve overcome difficult times before and starting college is no different. There is nothing wrong in missing your past. You just have to realize that you are at school for a purpose. As college rookies, you’re doing great things, too! Push the negative thoughts aside and keep going.
12. Heal Before It Worsens:
Although most students will experience some mild form of homesickness, it’s important to be aware that homesickness can develop into something more extreme. In students, it can trigger anxiety and depression disorders if not dealt with. There is an intuitive sense of what’s normal and what’s abnormal. It’s rare for homesickness to develop into something more serious, but if you need to be helped, don’t keep it to yourself. I again emphasize that there is nothing wrong in missing your past. Seek guidance from a professional on campus who can help you assess your situation and help you develop a plan to move forward.
It’s important to keep in mind that homesickness is normal. We all have out bouts of loneliness at college, especially in the freshman year. Be sure to look forward at all the positive things your college career holds for you. You’ve only just begun!