As the excitement of the start of the term dies down and we move into midterms season, it’s noteworthy to talk about a certain malady that no student is safe from: homesickness. You don’t actually have to live far from home to experience homesickness. Whether you currently live several minutes or several thousand miles from home, at some point you will inevitably feel that sense of achy nostalgia that leaves you missing the comforts of home. Homesickness is mostly attributed to a lack of security and it is about this point in the term–about four or five weeks in–that homesickness becomes most prevalent. This is likely because many first year students start to doubt their own abilities in college, encounter challenges they are not used to, and do not yet feel comfortable in their new environment. However, it’s not just freshmen that experience the backlash from a bout of homesickness–from personal experience I get homesick when I get particularly overwhelmed with school.
I recently sat down with my friend Susan to discuss her own experiences with homesickness. Susan, a sophomore, had a difficult experience overcoming homesickness in her first year. “I actually took a post-grad year when I graduated high school,” Susan told me, “because I wasn’t sure if I was ready to leave my grandparents. But after a year, I felt more confident in leaving home.” However, when Susan got to Union, she felt the three hour car ride was too great a distance between her and her family. “It was daunting and I struggled with the shock of being alone” Susan commented. I asked Susan how being homesick felt. She told me it manifested as stomachaches and headaches. “I just felt bad physically,” she said, “and I struggled to eat properly”. Lastly, I asked Susan how she managed these feelings of loneliness and insecurity. “My family came up to visit me a few times,” Susan mentioned, “that helped to reassure me that everything was ok”. Susan also told me that the more she got involved on campus the better she felt and the less she thought of home. “Although I still get homesick sometimes,” Susan admitted, “mostly when I’m stressed out and want to snuggle with my mom.”
Susan’s experiences with homesickness are similar to those of other college students. Homesickness can present in a physical sense as Susan experienced, but it can also be seen through emotional distresses such as anxiety, weepiness, and loneliness just to name a few. For example, I asked my sister how she knows she’s homesick. She responded with, “I get insecure, blame it on something else, cry, and then deal with it.” It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of homesickness in yourself so that you can “deal with it” appropriately. Similarly to Susan, my sister said she uses distractions to deal with her homesickness, “Or just call mom,” she added after a moment of thought.
I whole-heartedly agree with Susan and my sister’s advice of calling home to relieve their homesick state. Whether we use our loved one as a reassurance or a distraction, it’s crucial to get the support we’re used here at our home away from home. So the next time you're feeling down, pick up the phone and call your mom–or your dad, your grandparents, your siblings, or anyone that makes you feel secure and loved. I’m sure you’ll both be thankful for it.