Thrive on Campus//

From One Student to Another: How to Handle Being Homesick at College

National statistics show that 66 percent of college freshmen experience homesickness. These tips will help.

Andrii Yalanskyi / Shutterstock
Andrii Yalanskyi / Shutterstock

Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

Before I transferred to Wichita State, I started my college journey at the University of Kansas, two hours away from home. I was lucky to have a couple friends from high school in the same dorm, but I still missed my family, my dog and my private bedroom. During my first semester, I drove back to Wichita at least every other weekend to “do laundry.” Obviously, I was saving money by driving all the way to Wichita and back to clean my clothes at home, instead of paying the $1.50 at my dorm.

Many students look forward to college because they get to move away from their parents and have some independence. Leaving home can often be difficult, though. According to a national survey, 66% of freshman experience homesickness. It is a normal feeling when you leave the comfort of your home and are thrust into an unfamiliar place.

Unfortunately, feeling homesick can impact your college life in an adverse way. In the most recent American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment conducted at Wichita State, more than 320 students reported that their homesickness greatly affected their academic performance.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can ease your discomfort:

An easy way to feel more at-home is to decorate your room like the one you have at home. This will help make the space feel safe and familiar. You can also put pictures of your family, friends and pets around your room so you never feel alone.

Bringing your home to you is also a great way to squelch homesickness. Ask your parents for care packages with some of your favorite items (like that one type of chocolate you can only find at that one store near your house). You can utilize the amazing technology we have now, too. Even talking to someone on FaceTime or Skype for a few minutes every other day can help drastically.

Another way to settle in is to form a daily routine and stick with it. This can include small things like setting your clothes out for the next day, then listening to music when you wake up and get ready. Start small and build on it every week. Once you establish your routine, you will begin to feel comfortable and natural in your new space.

I’m not necessarily the best example, as driving four hours every weekend for laundry is a little impractical, but making trips home can improve your mood as well. If you only live a couple hours away, plan a few weekends to return and do something fun in your hometown. If you live slightly farther away, you can meet your parents or friends halfway and find a cool activity. Living a long distance from home can be a bummer, but getting a calendar and counting down the days until the longer breaks when you can go home can help.

Getting to know the WSU campus and the greater Wichita area will also help you feel more relaxed and at home. There is a lot to discover at WSU, and half the fun is going out and discovering it. A great perk for students is that we get to use the city buses with our student IDs. Take a trip downtown and check out the historical buildings and local businesses.

One of the best ways to combat homesickness is to get involved on campus. If you had a hobby back at home, see if you can find it here. Or, find something new to try. Campus Recreation holds free group fitness classes and intramural sports games. You can go to fine arts events, join the Student Government Association, or compete in esports tournaments. There is something for everyone, you just have to get out and look.

You should also remember that just because your high school classmates look like they are having the most amazing time on social media, you don’t get the full story. I never posted about feeling bad. I posted photos of the hammock I set up under my lofted bed, the fish my roommate got and the cool pizza place we would go to at 3 a.m.

Don’t forget that there are tons of resources on campus to help you make it through the year successfully. Counseling and Prevention Servicesthe Office of Student Success and the Office of First-Year Programs all have great resources for anyone having trouble adjusting to college.

This story was originally published at wichita.edu.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental illness and need support, please call the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) helpline, 800-950-6264. Or, in a crisis? Text NAMI TO 741741.

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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