A new normal: Getting over homesickness

Alex Nguyen discusses a few strategies for homesick students.

by Alex Nguyen – Horizon Opinion Editor

It has been two weeks since you came to Hesston College.  You find yourself lying on your bed at night, listening to “Going Home” by Kenny G, and you cannot stop thinking about your hometown. You open Skype, look at the list of people in groups of friends and family and are willing to talk to whoever is online. The cafeteria food may be great, but where do you find a friend to sit by in the dining room? You feel uncertain. You feel isolated. You feel distracted. You feel depressed. You feel homesick.

The moment you knew you were going to Hesston College, there was a sense of excitement. Later on we start to feel the indefinable potential energy slip away. As a high school student you never had to live with strangers, and suddenly you now have to. Some of you have friends here already. Some of you studied in boarding school for years. To both of you I say congratulations. You are lucky. For most first-year students, dealing with homesickness is inevitable.  You cannot concentrate, and you have a desire to stay close in touch with people from home. But do not worry, when you identify homesickness it means you took one step closer getting over it.

In fact, it is quite normal to be homesick. In a 2010 article on cnn.com, Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama’s School of Public Health says that what was really missing is what is familiar.

“You’re not literally just missing your house. You’re missing what’s normal, what is routine, the larger sense of social space, because those are the things that help us survive.”

My mother always says that “Happy people are busy people,” and I did not completely understand the saying until I got to college. Keeping my mind busy can be a tremendous help as long as that activity is purposeful. It really depends on your personality type. For example, I used to talk with my friends and family for about an hour each day and spend the rest of the day thinking of them. Then I tried to focus on creating a new routine and setting some academic goals. Amazingly, I overcame the homesick feelings in only a few days.

On the other hand, if you are an extrovert, you could get involved in new activities on campus. Look to professors, advisors, RAs and other students for tips on what is happening. Finally, be open to making new friends and do not be embarrassed about your feelings. You might even want to talk to your new friends about how miserable you are if the emotions are overwhelming.

Advice that is good for homesick students is actually good for all students. And at Hesston College, it’s something we all have to deal with. As Professor Karen LeVan said, “The two -year college environment makes change and the need to adapt a familiar reality for us all.”

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