How to deal with homesickness: A student guide
Bethany Montgomery, Editor-in-chief
Moving to college from the comfort of home, where meals and a consistent sleep schedule are fairly constant, can be a major adjustment—especially for first-year students. This new adjustment to adult life can leave some students depressed and unorganized, all while dealing with poor eating and sleeping habits. But perhaps the biggest adjustment for most new students is living away from family for the first time. Like any university, students at Saint Martin’s admit to having a hard time adapting. Drayden Yamauchi, a first-year from Hawaii, described his difficult start to the year. “It was a really hard transition. I didn’t want to be here for pretty much the whole first semester. I constantly miss my family back at home.” Homesickness is quite a common symptom, even for upperclassmen. And although missing your family back home is not a bad thing, it can contribute to a lack of motivation and depression. However, implementing coping mechanisms can be extremely helpful in controlling this feeling and developing healthy habits away from a controlled environment.
First of all, keep realistic expectations about college. Expecting that college is going to a place to party every night without being responsible to anyone, or assuming that you will meet your lifelong friends the first month on campus is highly unrealistic. Keep in mind the real reason you came to university: to get a degree. Everything else is a blessing that comes along with it. Enjoy the fun experiences, but don’t hold yourself to the expectation that that is what college is supposed to be.
One major benefit to moving to a new environment is that you have a clean slate to develop new habits. Utilize this opportunity to build the routine you’ve always wanted. You can’t fall back on familiar bad habits if they don’t exist. The benefit of having a set class schedule allows you to plan your goals within pre-set windows, like working out before your 8 a.m., or eating lunch after your 11 a.m. class. Adopting other traditions, like having movie night on Fridays, shopping Sunday afternoons or waking up early one day a week to get a coffee and read before class will help develop a routine can build a feeling of familiarity that will make adapting easier.
A seemingly obvious way to cure loneliness is get out of your room. In fact, if you are normally an introverted person, spend as little time in there as necessary. Extensive time alone can cause overthinking, and can intensify feelings of loneliness and sadness. Fill your time with on-campus activities or a part-time job, and study in places with other people present, whether that be in a study group, the library, or a coffee shop. This is also an excellent opportunity to explore the surrounding area so that it feels a little more familiar.
Though keeping in touch with your family is important, you may want to keep it to a minimum. Designate a day of the week to call and chat rather than talking to them every day. This can become a major distraction and can hinder your ability or desire to make new friends. Staying involved in clubs and on-campus activities is one of the best ways to branch out. Yamauchi continued this thought, saying, “Once you make friends and create a new family it becomes easier to call this place home.”
Last of all, remember that you have access to on-campus resources for this sort of problem. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The Counselling and Wellness Center has a variety of outlets for relieving stress, and an excellent team of counsellors who are more than willing to talk to you. You’re already paying for this resource, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of it.
When adjusting to a new setting, remember to stay positive, focus on building new relationships and traditions, and most importantly, know that you’re not alone.