Coping with homesickness as a first year

Coping with homesickness as a first year

Art credit: Anya Maria Contreras-García

Art credit: Anya Maria Contreras-García
Art credit: Anya Maria Contreras-García

Amidst all the buzz of the beginning of the semester, many of even the most self-sufficient incoming students are struggling with homesickness. From dorm room set-ups to the taste of the water, almost nothing feels like home. With the first semester off and running, students have been left to themselves to adapt to their new lives.

“When I’m not doing stuff during the day, or if I sit in my room for too long, I get really, really homesick,” says first-year Sofia Guerra. She observes that the moments she feels the most homesick are when she is bored or alone. “I’ll start thinking about how I want to be on my couch at home, or like, with my mom. It just reminds me that this isn’t my home.”

For many new students, adjusting to living in a new space can be very disorienting. Moving into unfamiliar environments can magnify feelings of isolation and discomfort, and make other aspects of adjusting more difficult.

So how can students deal with their emotions without sacrificing academic success? Dr. Duane Khan of the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) suggests that students can do things like call or Skype their loved ones regularly and plan regular visits home to help mitigate feelings of homesickness. “It helps when you have something to look forward to,” says Khan.

In the meantime, making home-cooked meals in any of the lounge kitchens or asking loved ones to send you objects that remind you of home, like a blanket or a poster from your room, can work wonders for one’s mental health.

“I think the most important thing in dealing with homesickness is to make your dorm a home,” third-year J.T. Engstrom agreed. “It’s all about recreating what you loved from your own bedroom, and adding to it as part of the New College experience. Make it your own, and grow along with it.”

With even more differences in lifestyle, students from other cultures may have a harder time adjusting to life in Sarasota. Second-year student Erika Johnson said, “My first semester was extremely rough; I remember sitting in my room for hours listening to this one song on repeat because it reminded me of home, and there were days where I refused to eat anything but white rice and dried salmon, a common Japanese dish.” Although the beginning was rough, Erika says joining clubs and even creating her own Japanese Club helped her transition. “Now I had an outlet where I could talk about my love for Japan with people who shared it. In the club we occasionally spoke Japanese which made me feel connected to my home.”

So, what’s the number one tip for coping with homesickness?

“For me it was going out,” Pertierra said. Making time to enjoy yourself and explore your new surroundings can really help students settle in. “I’ve been going to the beach a little bit more, and I’m feeling a little bit more in place,” she said.

Upper-year students who survived the struggle offer similar advice. “Try to get out of yourself and keep busy,” fourth-year student Paul Cummins said.

“College is a great place to make friends and the more friends you make, the more a place will feel like home,” Johnson added.

Though there are plenty of things to do that can help, dealing with homesickness can be exhausting, and students shouldn’t have to go through it alone.

“I actually started going to the CWC second semester for counseling to try and get over [my homesickness]. In retrospect, I should’ve gone to the CWC right away and learned from the get go,” second-year student Hope Sparks said. “The advice I would give would be to talk to someone! It’s really much more common than you think. Don’t be scared to go to the CWC, they can be incredibly helpful. The transition into college is hard, and your feelings are totally valid, but you don’t have to go through it alone.”

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