Handling homesickness

Halee Olson

Feeling homesick is something very normal that many college students will struggle with. Even students who are psyched for college life and can’t wait to bask in their new-found independence away from parents will often times still find themselves missing home, and it’s completely understandable.

The transition from home to college is hard. The initial shock of a brand new environment can take a toll on many students, making them miss mom’s food, their normal sized bed, and showering without shoes on. The good news is that feeling homesick isn’t permanent, and there are lots of tips and tricks you can use to combat it!

Student Advice

“I began struggling with homesickness almost immediately after arriving to campus. To overcome this, I would listen to music that reminded me of home and surround myself with the Puerto Rican community here at Iowa State. To those who are struggling with homesickness, I recommend finding some sort of link to home and clinging onto it, whether that be music, a movie, or a group of people. It is always important to stay connected to home.”

– Maria Pimentel, a freshman in Political Science.

“I started to feel homesick right after my family dropped me off. The first month was really hard because everything I knew was back in my hometown! To overcome my homesickness, I kept myself busy by hitting the gym, joining intramural sports, and rushing a sorority. I started to become close to my roommates because I knew that making good friends would distract me from thoughts of home. My advice is to get involved! You have to put yourself out there, but don’t overwhelm yourself. It can be hard to balance school, physical fitness, a job, and a social life. “Me time” is super important as well.”

-Nikki Graber, a sophomore in Kinesiology and Health

Professional Advice

Mark Rowe-Barth is the director of the Student Wellness Center on campus- a new department that just launched Spring 2017. Mark shared with me his thoughts and advice on homesickness in students.

1.    Would you say that homesickness is a common reason why students come into the Wellness Center?

Our goal is proactive, holistic student wellness.  As it relates to homesickness, we strive to be a resource point for students who may be struggling.  Depending on an individual student’s situation, they may be looking for ways to get connected, or involved on-campus, or they may be looking for services to talk through issues of sadness, stress, anxiety or depression as it relates to homesickness, in which case we might suggest talking with someone at Student Counseling Services.  Homesickness is a normal and common issue that many students may feel at one point or another in their college experience.

2.  Does the number of students seeking guidance for homesickness seem to be higher at the beginning of the year? Does this number increase or decrease as the year goes on?  

I think that we often assume homesickness is something that happens early on in the academic year, but not as much after the first few weeks to month of the fall term.  It certainly can begin immediately, but the reality is that homesickness can occur at any point.  It is very individualized based upon each person’s circumstances and feelings.  One example of this may be a student who arrives on-campus, full of excitement for this new beginning and all of the academic, co-curricular and involvement opportunities that come with being a college student.  That excitement and the “newness” might carry a student through for a period of time, but then things start to settle down, there’s more of a routine, and those feelings of homesickness may begin.  Sometimes a student may feel homesick after going home for a break and returning to campus, or if a student cannot go home for break, while so many other students are away, this can be a very lonely time during which someone may feel homesick.

3.    What advice would you like to give to a student struggling with homesickness?  

Get involved! Consider joining an ISU student group, organization, or sports club (just to name a few!). You’ll make new friends, learn new skills, and feel more connected to ISU! Check out the ISU Student Activities Center webpage: http://www.sac.iastate.edu/

Keep close communication with your family and friends. Make regular phone calls; send emails, or even video chat.

Make yourself at home. Decorate your residence with pictures and keepsakes from home.

Make time for you. Be sure to set aside some time to partake in activities that help you relax and relieve stress. Whether it’s movement outdoors at State Gym or Lied Recreation Center; joining a musical ensemble; an intramural team; going on an Outdoor Recreation trip, or writing in a journal, treat yourself to what brings you joy.

Invite visitors. Invite your friends or family members to visit you at ISU.

Stay on campus as much as possible. The more time you spend getting to know the campus and your new friends, the more you’ll feel “at home” while at ISU. Take advantage of the endless opportunities you have as a student, and enjoy the social events on campus. Check out the ISU Info for Students webpage:  http://web.iastate.edu/students/

Seek Support. Talk to a CA or a student who has been at ISU for a year or two. Contact Student Wellness to discuss resources/options:  http://www.studentwellness.iastate.edu/ OR Student Counseling Services to schedule an appointment with a counselor:  http://www.counseling.iastate.edu/