It’s your second week of school and already you’re contemplating going home for Labor Day. Sure, it’s just a three-day weekend and it wasn’t in your budget, but you’re homesick. College isn’t quite what you thought it would be.
In the first place, your classes are way too large. You’ve got over 40 students in some of them, and your Environmental Science class must be close to 100. You’ve already pulled a C on a pop quiz and you can’t even find that teacher’s office—is Environmental Science going to be your downfall?
Then there’s the dorm. Your roommate acts like you’re from another planet, and you haven’t really connected with anyone else on your floor. Maybe you should have listened when your parents suggested you go to college in-state. But you wanted to come here—you wanted to go away to college. And now you’re homesick. Isn’t there anything you can do?
Yes, there is. Dear student, you are not alone in feeling disoriented your first semester at college. But there are some specific steps you can take to make the transition a little easier.
1: Establish a relationship with your roommate
Yes, right now the two of you don’t seem to be hitting it off—but your roommate is probably just as nervous as you are. Remember, if your roommate had a friend from home to room with, he/she wouldn’t be with you. You two are together because both of you came here by yourselves, without your pals from high school. So take the first step—invite this person to breakfast or lunch, or to join you at some college activity. Someone has to take the initiative and it might as well be you. Establishing just one friendship in a new place can go a long way toward making your living situation more comfortable. And remember, you and your roommate do have something in common—both of you chose the same college.
2: Find that teacher’s office
You may not think that your relationship (or lack of) with your teachers has anything to do with homesickness, but it does. You need to locate the offices of all your teachers, write down their office hours, and visit the one who gave you a C on the quiz. Establishing solid relationships with your teachers will help to ground you in your new environment. Part of homesickness is a feeling of disorientation—new surroundings can seem unstable sometimes, as if they’re not going to last. If you meet with your teachers on a regular basis, even if only to say hello, you’ll feel part of academia, as if you belong at your college.
3: Join a college activity—preferably something you like!
There’s nothing that will make you feel at home in your new college like becoming a member of a college organization. It doesn’t matter if it’s Student Government, concert chorale, or the chess club. Any group will do as long as you like it. Here is where you have to put yourself out a little bit—if you like something that means it might be difficult for you to make the first move, but that’s exactly what you have to do. Take a chance—if you’re unsure, make your first activity one with an open enrollment rather than a try-out. You can do the hard stuff later.
4: Decorate your dorm room
It’s very easy, if you’re homesick, to adopt an “It’s temporary” attitude toward your surroundings. This is a mistake. What you really need to do is make your room as cozy and homelike as possible. If you didn’t bring enough pictures, plants, and cushions from home, get yourself over to the college bookstore where mugs, posters, pennants and other goodies abound. This is the place to splurge (rather than on food), because the more inviting you can make your room, the happier you’ll be when you’re in it. (And maybe this pleasant atmosphere will attract some company as well.)
5: Start a journal
Now, this may be a bit unusual for some people, but a daily journal of your activities and more importantly, your feelings about your activities can go a long way toward making you feel established in a new environment. This endeavor is different from Facebook or a daily blog, because it is for your eyes alone. Here you can record your inner thoughts and desires—and your achievements as they occur. Homesickness in part is being away from the “you” that you know and love, the “you” who is used to doing certain things and thinking certain thoughts. The “you” that emerges in your journal will be just as wonderful—but it will be a new you. And after a while you won’t be able to resist everything that is unfolding in the life of that exciting, active, absolutely fascinating college student.
Dear student, remember, almost everyone experiences a bit of homesickness, even if they don’t show or talk about it. Keep going and before you know it—you’ll be established and free of homesickness in your new college home.