Surviving Homesickness as a Freshman in College

Marge Simpson suffers from homesickness and tells Homer "I just want to go home."

The Simpsons / Giphy

Everyone knows what homesickness feels like. You’re mopey; you miss your friends; you’d be happy to see anyone from your hometown or neighborhood (even that obnoxious kid who lives down the road) just for the familiarity; you really want to see your mom. It’s not a particularly good feeling, but it is a common one. You can take a little bit of sick pleasure in knowing that you’re probably not the only one who misses their bed, their dog, and dinner with the whole family. But that’s not going to help you get over it.

Instead of sitting around alone in your dorm room thinking about how different things would be if you’d decided to go to the local university and live in an apartment down the road from your family (and trust me, that version of reality has its own downsides), you need to actively combat these feelings. The great thing about homesickness is that it actually doesn’t take too long to overcome it. Pick a few things from the following list and see if they kick your moroseness to the curb!

1. Leave your room and do literally anything.

I’m not kidding. Literally anything. Go browse the shops on Main Street. Ask your RA if he’ll get you the ingredients you need to make cookies. Visit the quad and watch an intramural game. Wander through the nearest green space and make time to talk to other students who are doing the same thing. Being in your room, by yourself, is only going to make things worse. You’ll think of all the things you miss and wallow in self-pity. So even if you don’t feel like socializing or even being around people, force yourself to leave the dorm and say hello to the next person you see.

2. Decorate your dorm room.

A lot of homesickness isn’t actually missing home, it’s missing the familiarity of home. To combat that lack of familiarity and find a space to call your own, decorate your room! If you’re a sports nut from Tennessee, get an orange UT flag and tack it to the wall. If your bedroom walls at home are covered in photos of your dog and your three best friends, print out photos of your dog and your three best friends and stick them all over the walls. If you forgot your favorite blanket at home, call mom and ask her to mail it to you. Being on campus won’t seem nearly as depressing when you have a place that is truly yours.

3. Meet someone new.

Tina Fey pushes her glasses up the bridge of her nose and makes an uncomfortable face.

Tina Fey / Giphy

When you’re busy talking to someone you’re going to have a much more difficult time remembering why you miss home so much. Ask someone sitting alone in the dining hall if you can join her for dinner (it’s not as awkward as it sounds, I swear; just get through the first five minutes). If that’s not your scene, talk to the person who sits next to you in one of your classes. One of the first people I met was a boy in my calculus class. Soon after, we were study buddies, and a couple of years later, we were dating. You miss 100% of the chances you don’t take, right? That girl who sits next to you could be your soon-to-be-discovered best friend.

4. Explore campus.

If homesickness is just missing the familiar, do what you can to make college familiar. Take a long walk and see which buildings are where. Map out a route through campus for your daily run. Find the school-run garden and then compare the crops with what you eat in the dining hall that night. Maybe your meal plan dinner is actually gourmet farm-to-table! Explore the library and decide where you’ll want to study when it comes time for exams. Buy cheesy college gear at the bookstore. (Actually take advantage of that—you’re set for birthday gifts for the next several years.) Once you learn the ins and outs of your campus, it won’t feel so foreign.

5. Join a club.

It doesn’t matter if you join the intramural broomball team or volunteer at the local animal shelter every weekend with a group of students, getting involved with campus activities is a surefire way to meet new people and combat homesickness. If you’re busy batting a ball around the ice with a broom and no ice skates, you won't be thinking of much other than not falling down. If you’re petting adorable, adoptable kittens at the animal shelter, you’re going to be so absorbed in fluff that not being in your hometown may not be such a big deal. If you’re feeling daring, sign up for a club that you never would’ve considered before (improv theater, if you’re me). You’ll have fun, and where there are laughs, there are friends.

6. Don’t call home as often as you want to.

You may be tempted to call a specific family member every time you feel down, but try to fight the impulse at least half of the time. It’s kind of like coming down from an addiction; you have to wean yourself off of home if you’re going to get better and enjoy your current situation. So, by all means, call mom when you make your first new friend or after your first class, but don’t call her to talk about how horrible your life is and how much you want to come home. It doesn’t do any of you any good. And while we’re on the topic of home, definitely don’t go home for a visit until at least halfway through your first semester. It’s even better if you can make it until Thanksgiving! Remember the addiction thing? Going home is just going to get you homesick all over again. Best to avoid the temptation outright.

7. Talk to your RA.

Jennifer Aniston waves goodbye.

Friends / Giphy

They’re there to help, and they’ve been through it before. Ask them how they fought homesickness when they were first starting college and see if they can suggest some friends! Your RA’s job is to know everyone on the floor, so chances are they can set you up on a dinner date. Not to mention that you can always try to be friends with your RA! That being said, if you are overwhelmed to the point where you feel like your homesickness may become more severe, your RA can help you make an appointment at the campus health clinic and suggest other resources to help you find your place and feel more at home. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

When you first start to feel homesick, acknowledge it. It’s a common, completely normal feeling. That said, don’t let it take over your life. Get out and about, make new friends, join a club, and stop being so reliant on your family. With a little bit of patience and a little bit of time, you’ll soon have homesickness kicked to the curb!

About Megan Clendenon

Megan C. is obsessed with Cincinnati-style chili, Louisville basketball, and Scandinavian crime fiction. She has lived in six different states and held 12 different jobs since beginning her undergraduate degree at Carleton College in 2008. The wanderlust abated somewhat in recent years, as Megan settled in Texas from 2013 to 2016 to finish a master’s degree in geosciences, write a thesis on the future horrors that stem from climate change, and get married. During her free time, you will find Megan sitting on the couch, cheering for her Louisville Cardinals, planning future adventures abroad, and snuggling with her dog, Tiger. She currently lives outside of Washington D.C.

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