The Freshman 15: Overcoming Homesickness

With a few months of your first year of college behind you, you may feel like you’ve already started to find a place for yourself. Now free to make many of your own decisions, you might embrace your newfound independence and thrive on it. However, you may also begin to miss seeing your loved ones every day, or living in the same place you have lived your entire life, and that’s when homesickness can start to kick in.

Even though I’m a sophomore and am in love with my university, there are times when I would love nothing more than to be in my old house again. After all, being three hours away from my family means that I miss out on some birthdays and holidays, I don’t have my parents and sister right there when I need their expert opinions, and I am absent for a lot of those you-had-to-be-there moments. However, as important as those things are to me, I do realize how much I benefit from the college experience, and how much I truly love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

For those of you struggling with homesickness, here’s a fresh perspective on how to banish any negativity that comes your way.Tweet this!

The Freshman 15: Overcoming Homesickness

1. Stay connected.
Regardless of how many state lines or oceans separate you from your friends and family, you can still keep in touch easily. Whether you prefer Facebook or face-to-face video chats, you have countless options for communicating with others long-distance, so long as you have access to a computer. Of course, there’s always the telephone (for those of us who feel alienated by social media at times), but it’s good not to just avoid your loved ones simply because you’re away from home. Allow yourself to miss them, and allow yourself to continue fostering those relationships.

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2. Make your new place your home.
It doesn’t matter if you live in a tiny jail cell dorm room or a luxurious apartment — you can still personalize your new living space so that it works for you. Coming home to a room that you’ve structured to match your personality and preferences will make you feel much more at home than merely staring at the empty cinderblock walls all day. For tips on how to properly stock and decorate, click here.

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3. Set goals.
College is the best time for self-improvement and growth, so why not focus on that for a while? Attending workshops and listening to guest speakers you admire will keep your mind off of your loneliness and boredom and more focused on achieving something new. At the very least, setting goals and working to achieve them will help you to better yourself for future employers and relationships.

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4. Meet with friends from home.
For some of us, this may not be feasible, but for those who attend state universities with others they went to high school with, or who have known a lot of people in the surrounding area, it can be good to reunite with those people on occasion. Of course, it is important to spread your horizons, but reminiscing with old friends from time to time can be perfectly harmless as long as you don’t dwell on the past completely.

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5. Get involved on campus.
It makes perfect sense: if you’re busy with clubs and sports and other activities, you have more time to make friends, bolster your resume and have fun — and less time to think about what you’re missing back home. Faculty and students at all different universities agree that student involvement is one of the most important things one can do to have a meaningful college experience.

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6. Embrace your new geography.
Learn about everything your new location has to offer! If you’re in a city, it’s easy to find interesting things to do and attractions to check out, but even if you’re in a college town, you can locate something exciting nearby. Getting to know your new zip code can help you to form a greater connection to it, and it can give you something to be proud of.

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7. Don’t forget snail mail!
Write letters to your friends and family, and memorize your new P.O. Box number and address so that you can start to receive mail there as well! I know it sounds cheesy, but when I have letters from home awaiting me in my mailbox, I can’t help but smile. It makes me think of the days when I will have my own house and receive holiday cards and letters there each year, and it gives me more of a reason to call my community home. Plus, how can you feel lonely when you have something waiting for you in your mailbox?

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8. Form your own support network.
Having others to talk to and spend time with is vital if you want to have a positive college experience. Whether you need advice on a particular subject or you just want someone to accompany you to the grocery store, having close friends can make college feel much less intimidating. My friends and I have formed somewhat of a second family, and without them, I don’t know how I would get by. It’s important to be open to meeting new people, and don’t be afraid to lean on them when you need to.

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9. Help others.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do to forget your woes is to assist others in conquering theirs. When I first started my fall semester of freshman year, I often wound up with practically the entire class of 2013 at my door, looking for something to do. Although it was sometimes overwhelming to play hostess to all those people, baking lots of break-and-bake cookies and serving all of my water and tea in Solo cups, I was also grateful to know that I had made others’ lives just a little easier and a little more entertaining. While you should never let others take advantage of you, you should be willing to occasionally assist others who may be just as homesick as you are.

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10. Get out of your room.
This tends to be my main advice for a lot of things (making friends, getting involved, etc.) but it still rings true no matter how many times I say it. The more exposure you have to the rest of campus and all of the events it has to offer, the less time you have to wallow in self-pity and think about how much you miss your home life.

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11. Bring in traditions from home.
Chances are, you will spend plenty of holidays at school, so why not make the most of them? Introduce your friends to some of your at-home customs, and allow them to chip in as well. In the meantime, it’s likely that you will develop your own traditions that you will pass on over the next four years. Christmukkah with my friends last year was a great success (and a great way to begin our finals week), and I’m positive that it will be even better this year!

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12. Find your outlet.
Do whatever it is that you do to overcome other forms of stress. Create art. Go for a run. Take pictures of the things you see. Play your guitar. Meditate. Write a blog (and then send me the link!) and find something that allows you to release whatever tension you have. This will help you in more ways than just this one, but having that one thing that allows you to let your mind go will also help you in overcoming any stress you may feel from homesickness as well.

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13. Make a list.
Sometimes it’s good to have something written down — then you’ve got your tangible evidence of what makes life at school so great. Keep a list of what you love about your new place, and remind yourself of everything it has to offer. Having to experience these things away from home is just another part of the growing process.

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14. Remember why you’re here.
You are in college to obtain an education (or to meet someone rich enough to marry… har, har).Β Ultimately there are many perks to being in college, but in order to experience those perks, you need to accept the challenges that come with. Being on your own is one of those challenges, but if you know that you can get past it, you will be able to improve yourself in more ways than you could have ever imagined.

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15. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If things are getting to be too much and it’s starting to affect your grades or health, then you may want to speak with a counselor. Many schools offer counseling services for a variety of issues, many of which are extremely common to college students. A professional may have more ideas (for free!) that will help you to better adjust to college life and to not let your homesickness debilitate you. πŸ™‚

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College is definitely a time for transition and change. How have you dealt with those changes?

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101 comments

  1. Great tips. My biggest helps during my college years were supportive family and a focus on my goals. It can be a bit of a sacrifice. I missed a lot of family events, but on graduation day it all seemed worth it.

  2. Agreed on all fronts — you’ve got some great tips here that will surely combat loneliness!

    And always remember your parents miss you as much as (read: more than, we just won’t admit it for fear of making you feel bad) you miss us! πŸ™‚

  3. These are great tips for coping with homesickness of any kind, not just university-related! Personalising your space is definitely a good idea – It makes it far more homely. Also, getting out and about, meeting new people and learning about your new city are definite musts – Meeting new people can seem daunting to some at first, but it is such an enjoyable journey to take! Learning about other people and their traditions is really rewarding!

    1. You’re definitely right — and I plan to take these ideas with me after college as well! It can be really intimidating to meet new people, but it was one of the most important things I did freshman year (and still one of the most important things I do now). Thank you so much for commenting πŸ™‚

    1. I know exactly what you mean! Right away I felt like I had carved out my own home up here and whenever I went to my actual home, I felt a bit of a disconnect… but at the same time I sometimes find myself wanting to go back and see my family. I think eventually you can call more than one place home, though! πŸ™‚

    1. That’s always so nice, having no messes or anything to worry about. I had a meal plan last summer, but then when I started my fall semester, I moved into an on-campus apartment without a meal plan and had to start cooking for myself. As someone who originally couldn’t boil water, it was a bit of a challenge, but now I feel like I’ve gained all these great domestic skills! πŸ™‚

      Thanks so much for commenting!

    1. That is so sweet of you! πŸ™‚ Thank you so much… I hope your sister likes it! I write Freshman 15 posts every month and so if she’s ever interested, she should check them out! I am always open to topic suggestions as well!

  4. It is a very normal to start feeling homesick, especially after the excitement of a new journey has worn off… my best advice to anyone would be to stay busy. get involved- meet new people- go out to parties…(lol) join a club etc. And as often as you can… visit back home…. share your experience with them.

    1. Thank you for sharing your advice πŸ™‚ I definitely agree with you. It’s also very interesting to come home, because people start to notice a change in you that maybe you didn’t even realize had taken place!

  5. As a fellow college sophomore, I totally agree with your list. I went through all the feelings of homesickness and adjustment last year, and then again this semester when I left to spend a year studying abroad. Let me just emphasize the importance of #10, and any other tip that involves getting out into the world; staying busy distracts you from feelings of homesickness and loneliness, and you’ll build a life for yourself so eventually school (or wherever you are) will feel more like home than your family’s house!

    1. I totally agree — after a while, I started to feel a little conflicted when it came to which place felt more like “home” to me. Now I’ve realized that both places have different meanings in my life and that they can still coexist peacefully πŸ™‚

      Studying abroad sounds amazing. Where did you decide to study? I would love to take part in a study abroad program, but probably only for a summer semester. Anyway, it sounds like you made the most of your first year, which is always really good to hear!

      Thank you so much for your comment! It’s good to hear from someone who is in the same boat as me!

    1. Hahah thank you! Were you thinking something along the lines of “Freshman 15… eating lots of food to overcome homesickness” kind of post? πŸ˜› Maybe I’ll attempt a humor entry one of these days…

    1. That sounds amazing! I’ve never had anything like that, although my roommates for my first summer (who happened to be twins) received a care package from their mom that happened to include banana bread πŸ™‚ I felt like such a mom the following semester because I was constantly baking for everyone.

      Thank you for the congratulations — I’m so thrilled! It caught me completely by surprise when I got back from class today. Huge honor!

  6. You list some great points. I hear the number one way to cope with Depression is “to do something.” Anything. Which you have written. I graduated last year and remember how difficult it was to be away from home. My dad, who is in the Army, got stationed somewhere two weeks before I started college. It was devastating as I had no other family around. But care packages from my mom and family friends are what got me through. Knowing you are in the same boat as everyone else helps tremendously too. And that you’re the not first one who has felt this way. Stay strong πŸ˜€

    1. I am so happy to hear that you were able to get through it. Having that support network is one of the best things you can have… meeting others who feel the same and who are going through similar situations is really helpful. Thank you so much for your comment, and best of luck to you as well in everything! πŸ™‚

  7. Great tips! The second one really took me back… It was probably November when my roommate and I started to miss home long ago my freshman year. We decorated the tiny dorm room for the holidays- strings of white lights and Christmas music- and it really made us feel better!

    1. That sounds like so much fun! We just decorated our apartment for Halloween and it really makes things feel a lot more festive. I’m so glad it worked so nicely for you! Thank you so much for commenting πŸ™‚

  8. I head off to college in a few months and am quite nervous to be 6 or more hours from home. Soothes the nerves to get some advice from the inside. Thanks for the tips, I’ll be sure to use them πŸ™‚

    1. I hope these tips are helpful for you! πŸ™‚ I know it can be really scary to leave home for such a foreign new place, but a lot of people wind up falling in love with it. I write college advice every month in this format and if you’d like to read more, you should totally check it out! (I have a page at the top dedicated to the Freshman 15 posts and it will tell you more.) Also, I like getting readers’ feedback, so if there is ever a topic you want me to cover, let me know via comment or Twitter sometime! Thank you so much for your comment!

  9. Hey, awesome post πŸ™‚

    I’m 17 (From Australia) and I have been away from home for 3 and a half months now. (Was in USA, now in France, and will be going to Germany and UAE. So I wont be home till next year!)
    I never thought I was the type to get homesick or get lonely. I’m only just starting to appreciate how much the people in my life affected me, and kept me strong mentally and emotionally.

    This post will help me πŸ™‚ I have already personalised my room Im living in, and my suitcase. I have my Australia hats and tshirts hanging on the walls, haha. And I hung up an Aussie hat in my host family’s living room πŸ™‚

    Thanks again,
    Tarnia
    http://tarniablog.wordpress.com (my travel blog)

    1. I can’t imagine being out of my home country for so long! I’m sure it would be difficult at times, but probably such a fulfilling experience as well. I’m glad you’ve found this post helpful… thank you so much for sharing your experiences! πŸ™‚

  10. I have a question: Is there something wrong with me, because I’m not that homesick. Or maybe I can’t identify the feeling because I’m good at ignoring the not-so-nice things in life.
    Well, I had no idea where I was going with that, but that said, really great advice! πŸ˜„ (I’d use it when it hits me that I am indeed no longer at home. Or in the same country as home.)

    1. There’s nothing wrong with you… some people feel it more than others. I actually feel it more this year than I did last year; it really depends on your personality and what you’re going through while you’re away. It’s not a bad thing to not be homesick!

      Thank you so much πŸ™‚ I’m glad you enjoyed.

  11. Love your blog..I just started blogging this summer but then fell off but I would love if you could read mine as well and provide any feedback.. I am just getting started so I do plan to add more pages. I would love if you would subscribe to mine.

    1. I will definitely give your blog a look! I haven’t been blogging for long either – I started in April on Blogger, then switched to WordPress in June (which I love) and definitely go through periods of lots of writing and then periods of very little writing. It’s a process but it’s so worth it. I can’t wait to check yours out!

  12. snail mail – so true! No one bothers anymore, but I feel so much closer to home and my friends from home when i actually receive a letter in my pigeon hole! Love your post! x

    1. It’s true… not a lot of people use it anymore, and it’s kind of sad! My best friend from college lives several states away, so when we were both home for the summer, we wrote each other letters in an 1800’s style of writing and it was so much fun to do. There’s nothing quite like opening the mailbox and finding something PERSONAL waiting for you πŸ™‚

      Thank you so much for commenting!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that! πŸ™‚ If you need any more university advice, I write a Freshman 15 blog once every month about different topics, and I have them archived on here as well! I also am open to suggestions if there is ever something you want to read about! Thanks for stopping by!

    1. It means a lot to me to hear that πŸ™‚ I am so glad you found it helpful… that’s one of the big reasons why I love to blog! Best of luck in your new home & feel free to vent or ask questions when you need!

    1. Thank you! If you would like more college advice, check out my Freshman 15 series… I write about a different college topic every month. πŸ™‚ I’m also open to suggestions, so if there is something you would like to read about, feel free to let me know via comments!

  13. Unfortunately, I never really had the “college experience”, because I commuted to my college. However, this is a great post with a lot of helpful suggestions. It almost makes me regret not choosing a school that was farther away so that I could face the ups and downs of living on my own at that fun age. πŸ™‚

    Great job!

    1. Thank you! Congratulations to you too… it’s so exciting πŸ™‚ I was completely surprised by it, but very happy. I’ll have to check your post out as well!

  14. Just love the idea that we can share this sort of thing – here are my two favourite things my gran said:
    Never waste food in you tummy, put it in the bin rather
    and You are never too poor to always eat by candlelight!
    Eating by Candlelight at least once a week can make life extra special!

  15. This is a nice post. You know, when I went off to university I never thought I would get homesick. I was just always so independent. My first year was so rough though. I was depressed, and a lot of it had to do with being away from home. This is important information for a lot of students out there or people traveling or something related. It helps.

    marlowesnymph.wordpress.com

    1. I’m sorry you had to go through that, but I’m glad you found this helpful. Being away from home is really hard sometimes, even if you are independent. I love having my space, but sometimes I really need my parents for advice and support, even if I do have a lot of good friendships here. Thank you for sharing!

  16. Very true – I live eight hours from home, and miss my family heaps! Next year will be my sixth, and hopefully last, year at university. I’m glad I had the opportunity to grow up on my own, but I’m looking forward to living a bit closer to my family again.

    1. Eight hours is tough! I’ll bet you’re ready to go back now. Best of luck with your last year, and enjoy being in closer proximity to your family again πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you for tweeting this… I appreciate it! πŸ™‚ It’s true, a lot of these tips have turned me into the busiest person ever. But I wouldn’t trade it!

  17. I’m studying 4,000 miles from home this semester. Although I already have 2 years of college and living away from home under my belt, this was a great post to read. It has been hard being so far away from home, but all these points are so true, and also helpful. Thanks for reminding me of these things!

    1. I can’t even imagine living so far from home… that’s amazing! I hope it has been worth your while, and I’m happy to know that this post was helpful πŸ™‚ Thank you so much for commenting!

      1. Honestly, I made the decision to come here 6 months ago, and it has proved to be the best decision of my life. I am such a homebody, and it was SO hard the first few weeks, but now time is flying, and I’m so glad I did it. I just had to throw myself into it and then go from there. I highly recommend to anyone that they should study abroad! πŸ™‚

  18. That’s great! I want to study abroad at some point, and I have my eye on a few short-term programs this summer. It sounds like such a wonderful experience… lots of personal growth as well!

  19. I chose to go to college 10 minutes away ;/ .. I wonder if i made the right decision or not. I tried moving into my own place for a year, it was a block away but i cried at night for a week ! I’m back in my old room again and happy for now. I wish i had the courage you do to go away. If you stay home, you wonder how it is to go to a university away from home, and if you go away you miss home. Nice post πŸ™‚

  20. Nice tips !! I still remember my sophomore days. Before you realize it, things will soon settle into place and it’ll be home to you. It is just the start that will take some time. Someday we will all have to leave the nest, sooner or later; so why not start off ?!! Have fun.

    1. Thank you very much! I can’t believe I’ve more or less found a home for myself here but I love it and could definitely see myself settling down somewhere around where I currently go to school. Who knows?! πŸ™‚

  21. Oh man. I’m really glad I got onto WordPress today. Thank you for your blog. I’ve been really homesick lately (it’s my first semester) and this helped me a lot. Thank you!

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