Dealing with Homesickness

Most of us, at one time or another, have missed home – the familiar, predictable atmosphere where we have generally spent the first eighteen years of our lives. Entering college is an exciting step—a passage to adulthood and independence. But, what should you do when that feeling of “Oh, I wish I were back at home—this is miserable” begins to set in?

  • First of all, realize that missing home is absolutely normal.
    Missing home, the place (your house), the people (your family and friends), and the pets (the cat, the dog, or the guppies) is absolutely normal. Adjustments of learning how to cope in a new environment take time to develop. Once you figure it out, that skill can provide you with practice and experience in coping with moves or transitions later in life.
  • Look at this time as an exciting opportunity.
    Developing an action plan and looking at this separation from home as an opportunity to develop new skills or interests can help you develop skills in coping with challenges.
  • Schedule visits home.
    Set a definite date for a visit home or to see your parents, but first allow yourself enough time to acclimate to this new environment. If you go home every weekend, you might deprive yourself of having a full college experience.
  • Stay in touch by phone and email.
    Daily phone calls can just reinforce a person’s sense of homesickness or isolation. Calling less frequently, once or twice a week, may actually help to reduce feelings of homesickness. Encourage your parents to write or email you on a regular basis; these can be saved and reread. A subscription to a favorite magazine or hometown newspaper can also help counter the vacant feeling of an empty mailbox.
  • Observe your own patterns.
    At times, a little self-analysis is in order. Note if there is a special time of the day or week that is particularly difficult and try to figure out why. Try to develop a routine of your own for days that go slowly such as having a leisurely breakfast, reading the newspaper, or visiting with a friend.
  • Get out of your comfort zone.
    Developing new friendships means taking risks. Sit with someone you don’t know at lunch. Invite someone to have coffee with you. Start a conversation with someone you don’t know at the bus stop or the elevator.
  • Plan time to feel homesick.
    Missing familiar people and things from home is common. Plan some time to reflect on those feelings and to accept them. Taking charge of your feelings in this way often helps to work through them.
  • Notice your new patterns.
    New patterns often develop gradually. Step back and mentally walk through your days, noting weekends particularly. Being aware of your new patterns and preferences will be helpful when you make your first visit home. Comparing the old routines you had at home with your new routines at college will help you realize how you are changing and becoming more independent. This will help lessen the shock when your parents wake you at the crack of eight when you are used to sleeping until noon on Saturday.

Things to remember when coping with homesickness

  • Home will still be there. Unlike the house in the Russian fairy tales of Baba Yaga –a witch whose house had chicken legs and was inclined to wander, your house will still be there when your return. However, try not to take it personally if your room gets transformed into a sewing room or den. Parents need something to keep them busy while you’re away at college.
  • While difficult for them, your parents will manage to cope without you. The crucial task is how you will learn to survive without them. This is a big step, but you will develop independent coping skills.
  • Try to keep your checkbook balanced. When you call home, parents often ask about finances. It’s nice to be prepared for these questions.
  • Develop healthy habits of coping such as talking, journaling, and exercising. Spending Saturday recovering from a Friday night hangover does not help the problem.
  • Remember to eat healthy foods. It is very easy with a busy college schedule to forget that you need good food to keep functioning at your best.
  • Don’t be afraid to let other people know that you are having a hard time of it. Feeling homesick, shy, lonely, and confused are very common for college students. Others may not look like they have had similar problems, but chances are they have; they just look more experienced and at ease now because they’ve been through it before and have survived.
  • Seek support if you are truly unhappy and are having difficulties coping. The staff of Counseling and Psychological Services is available to assist you. We consult with many students every day and we are here to help you create your KU home.

When things are too overwhelming

If you find that you are beginning to think pessimistically, develop marked changes in sleeping or eating habits, have prolonged crying spells, have concentration difficulties, or have suicidal thoughts, the problem may not be homesickness, but depression or anxiety. Depression and anxiety are the two most common complaints of college students when they visit counseling centers. These problems can be helped by professional treatment.