By Lucy Ewing
Colleges have programs in place to welcome new students, but many first years will still experience homesickness.
There are times of the day and family traditions that tug at a freshman’s heart. And there is the effort of making new friends, perhaps the biggest challenge of all.
Students I spoke with recalled missing the smell of waffles, eggs and bacon every morning, or the big Sunday dinner. They missed the comfort of home: “Beds, chairs, and really all furniture at college are pretty uncomfortable!” one student said. (Bargain bungee chairs are not the same as the family sofa.) They missed family and friends and pets, especially at night. That’s when you may get those wistful phone calls.
Just hearing a parent or sibling’s voice can improve a student’s mood and mindset. However, some upperclassmen caution that parents and freshmen calling each other too often can slow the acclimation to campus.
So, too, if campus is close to home, parents might be tempted to offer refuge. This is the time when you remember that your role is changing. The parent in you wants to jump in the car and rush to make things better; instead, think about how you can serve as a coach and advisor to help your student beat the homesickness blues. (Parents, some students’ “blues” may be beyond the scope of homesickness. Find out how to recognize and address this here.)
Remembers one grad: “My mom and I are really close, and in the beginning I really wanted to go home over the weekends. My mom gently suggested that it would be better in the long run if I stuck it out at school.”
Social engagement is key to your student gaining confidence and a sense of belonging. These suggestions were offered by students who have been there and made it through — share them with your freshman.
The experience of confronting homesickness while settling in at college teaches your student how to negotiate all kinds of new territory.
How do you know when your student has settled in? When the next call you receive sets you at ease — a good sign that your student is working things out for herself. How does your student know the homesickness hump has been hurdled? “I knew I was over my homesickness,” one upperclassman said, “when going back to campus meant going home.”
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