This coming weekend is Family Weekend at the University of Scranton and our city is poised to play host to Scranton family members. Many students I have spoken to are eagerly anticipating their first reunion with family since move-in weekend. It’s an exciting time. However, family weekend can sometimes exacerbate feelings of homesickness which are so common in first year students. The CAS Advising Center is here to help students navigate those uncomfortable feelings associated with moving away from home!
Everyone else seems fine...
They’re not. Trust me. Homesickness is as common as that flu that will inevitably start circulating the dorms in the next few weeks. Heading off to college means leaving behind the comfort and security of your support network. It means saying good bye to the family, friends, beloved pets and physical surroundings that contributed to your happiness in a meaningful way for so many years. It’s natural to miss all of that and to feel a longing for the way things were and it is a very, very common experience. Also, you are facing new and uncertain challenges that can make you need a support network more than ever. What’s important is how you cope with it. Just like you will take steps to minimize your risk of getting the flu or to improve your health if you do get it, there are steps you can and should take to protect your emotional wellbeing.
I miss home! What can I do?
You can develop strategies that can help you wrestle with the negative feelings that come with homesickness:
How have I handled a similar situation in the past?
Has there ever been a time in your past when you have had to cope with homesickness? What did you do to move through the experience? Were you successful? Consider what strategies you may have employed at that time. Would any of those strategies work today? For example, when you went off to camp, did you find it helped to keep busy? Did you bond with other campers? Did you write letters home? Focus on your past successes; they can illuminate your present path.
Accept that feeling homesick is normal!
If you berate yourself because you think you shouldn’t feel homesick, you will only feel worse. Remember that it is normal to feel this way and while you may be experiencing this discomfort, it is better to accept the feeling rather than trying to extinguish it. Gradually, these feelings will subside. Trying to bury your feelings with unhealthy coping strategies such as excessive drinking will only make things worse.
Talk about it!
The Counseling Center provides free and confidential counseling and is a wonderful resource. They are also running a group for people who are experiencing homesickness. The Counseling Center is located on the 6th floor of O’Hara Hall. You can just walk in or you can call them at 570-941-7620. If you don’t want to call or go alone we will walk you there. You can also talk to your RA, an Academic Advisor, members of Campus Ministry or other students. It is very likely that all these individuals have had to cope with homesickness at some point and are there to listen and understand.
Don’t ignore you feelings or distract yourself with drugs and alcohol. However, immersing yourself in campus life can be very helpful. As you work to get involved, you will develop a connection to those around you and will start to carve out a comfortable place here as well. Many students I have talked to who are anxious and homesick in the first semester feel a sadness about leaving Scranton behind by the time the spring semester draws to a close. Be patient and you can make this a comfortable home for yourself!
When you feel homesick, it seems logical to go home on a regular basis. However, this can exacerbate your problems. Going home every weekend will slow your adjustment to campus life. You will severely limit your opportunities to get to know other people on campus or to get involved with campus activities. You might not develop a deep connection here if you leave every chance you get. Additionally, you won’t give yourself an opportunity to move past the worst of your homesickness. You should avoid going home at all before Fall Break unless it is an emergency.
There’s a positive side!
Life is made up of transitions. That uneasy feeling or that feeling of longing for the way things were is likely to be something you experience at many points throughout life, not just at this time. The way you cope at this point can prepare you to handle similar situations in the future. It also provides you with an opportunity for personal growth and a chance to stretch yourself.
The bottom line is that you should remain kind to yourself and try to remain patient with the transition. Understand you aren’t alone in feeling this way and you don’t have to be alone in handling it. Stop by the CAS Academic Advising Center to talk or reach out to one of the other resources I mentioned!
CAS Academic Advisor