Being away from family, friends, and community can evoke an unfamiliar level of loneliness. Getting homesick is normal. Here are some tips that will hopefully ease the discomfort.
Long, Long Way From Home
Part of the experience of going away to college is the “being away” part. Classes are a small percentage of focused time at the new location. Downtime, evenings, and weekends, at first, can be dreadfully lonely. But this is an important aspect of entering adulthood.
As adults, we often have to manage new surroundings—some desired, others imposed. Moving to a new city for marriage, a job, or financial reasons can evoke the same feelings a new college student experiences on campus. That’s why learning what that lonely-thing feels like and then finding and using coping skills is so important.
A Student’s Best Friend
A recent study conducted in British Columbia found that dog therapy benefitted first-year collegiates. The University in Canada implemented the research project because the dropout rate is so high amongst the most homesick students.
The researchers were exploring ways to minimize loneliness in order to reduce dropout levels. They were successful when it came to dog therapy. Once a week, 22 students (for eight consecutive weeks) socialized in a group with puppies and other college mates. Their homesickness was eased by the end of the eight weeks.
Additionally, the dog therapy group had a “higher satisfaction with life.” 22 students in the control group (who did not engage in dog therapy) remained homesick, and were three times more apt to dropout than the other students.
Speaking of friends, the University of Oregon provides tips on how to meet others when in a new town with all new faces. Counselors recommend:
-eating meals with roommates, classmates, or anyone else looking for company at mealtime.
-watch a movie with a couple of new friends.
-join a club on- or off-campus with other with like-minded individuals (i.e.,. hiking, sci-fi, live music, etc.)
-don’t worry about being shy. Most people are nervous reaching out.
-don’t worry about making a new best friend right away. Relationships require cultivation.
When you’re alone:
-don’t be ashamed about feeling lonely. It’s a natural experience that everyone goes through.
-get outdoors, exercise, or dance. Get out of your mind and into your body.
-listen to or play music.
-volunteer. Help a friend or a stranger. Focus on loving rather than being loved.
Going back home for a visit can warm the soul. But if you do it too often, you won’t give yourself the proper opportunity and effort it takes to build on your new life. Hang in there. You will feel so proud of yourself for conquering your fears. You’ve got this!