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Homesick at College

All across the United States, students are experiencing their first year of college. In addition to academic demands, this can mean newfound freedom and independence, learning to live with a roommate and navigating new social circles. College students leave behind familiar faces, routines and places. Meanwhile, those family and friends continue on with their own lives. 

Is Homesickness Normal?

Is missing home making it difficult for you to enjoy college life? If so, you’re not alone. Studies show that up to 70% of college freshmen report feeling homesick (English, Davis, Wei, & Gross, 2016). 

Is There a Cure for Homesickness?

While it can be tempting to travel home at every opportunity, this isn’t necessarily the cure for homesickness. The key is moderation and focusing your energy on building a fulfilling, successful college experience. 

Helpful Tips for Homesickness

Here are some useful tips for dealing with homesickness at college:

Stay Connected

  • Make an effort to have regular phone or video calls with your family and friends back home. Don’t just rely on social media, texts or emails to stay connected. 
  • Plan a visit home on a long weekend. This will give you something to look forward to and allow you some extra time to make plans with friends and family back home. 
  • Decorate your space with reminders of home. In addition to putting up photos of friends and family, try decorating with comforting items. This might include your favorite blanket or a poster from your room back home. 

Get Involved

  • Learn about campus clubs, activities, and events. Try one out. This is a great way to fill your time, meet new people, and get connected to your new college home. 
  • Attend classes. Even if you’re feeling down, regular attendance is important for doing well at school. It provides a distraction and increases opportunities for meeting new people. 
  • Introduce yourself to classmates. Take the opportunity to make new friends in class or at other campus activities. This can feel scary, but remember this experience is new for everyone. Try asking someone where they’re from or what their major is. 
  • Make plans with new people and accept invitations from others. Invite someone to join you for a meal or coffee. You’re not alone in how you’re feeling and the people you encounter are likely also seeking new connections.  
  • Take advantage of campus amenities like the gym, recreation center or library. Pick out something that interests you and look into available resources on your campus. 
  • Be realistic about your schedule. While distractions can be helpful, you’ll want to establish a balance between academics, activities and socializing. Taking on too much could lead to feelings of overwhelm

Cope with your Feelings

  • Don’t ignore your feelings. Acknowledge that you’re feeling homesick, and that it's normal. Allow yourself to feel sad or lonely; give yourself permission to cry or spend some time alone if you need to. If you struggle to move past these difficult feelings, try journaling about them. 
  • Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. This might include talking with a friend, parent or sibling about your homesickness and how it’s affecting you. If you’re living in the dorm, you can reach out to your RA . There may also be opportunities on your campus to speak with a spiritual leader. 
  • Be patient with yourself. Remember that homesickness is normal, and it may come and go throughout college. Don’t try to force yourself to feel better. 
  • Visit the campus counseling center if you continue to struggle or notice that homesickness is preventing you from engaging in classes or everyday activities. If you notice that you’ve lost interest in things you used to enjoy or begin to feel hopeless, you may be experiencing symptoms of depression, and your campus counseling center can help guide you to the right resources. 

Originally Published: October 2015. Updated: August 2022. 

Claire Rynearson, LCSW, LIMHP
Claire Rynearson, LCSW, LIMHP

Claire Rynearson, LCSW, LIMHP is an Integrated Behavioral Health Specialist at CHI Health.

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