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What does it mean to feel "homesick?"

The transition from leaving home to coming to college can leave many students feeling overwhelmed, excited, anxious, and "homesick." Most people actually experience "homesickness" at least one time in their lives. But what exactly is "homesickness" and how do I know that I may be experiencing it? "Homesickness" can mean different things to many different students; however, the most common symptoms can originate several weeks prior to leaving home. You may feel mildly anxious and depressed when anticipating the transition; however, this is completely normal. Some students are initially accepting of the change; however, then find themselves feeling "homesick" later in the semester, perhaps after returning to campus after winter break. However, "homesickness" typically occurs during the first few days or weeks of arriving to the university setting. Typically, students who feel "homesick" often feel as if they have no control over their environment. With all of the changes and the new transition, it can be very difficult to identify with their surroundings.

There are two situations that are similar for all students:

1. Each student has left familiar people, places, and things

2. Each student has to adapt to new people, places, and things.

What makes some students more vulnerable to "homesickness" compared to others are the following things:

  • The distance away from home--the farther away from home, the more vulnerable the student becomes to feeling "homesick"
  • The student's decision to come to the proposed university--if the student was not completely certain prior to attending the university, it can be very difficult for him/her to adjust, which can make the student more vulnerable to feeling "homesick"
  • If the student becomes unhappy with feeling like his/her expectations of the university are not being met--if the student was very excited to attend the university and he/she finds that the classes, environment, social structure, etc. are not meeting expectations, he/she may be more susceptible to want to leave the university and return home
  • The student's family life at home--if the student's family are not healthy and happy at home, he/she may feel "needed at home" and become more susceptible to leaving the university to return home
  • The student may experience conflict with identity--if the student feels as if he/she does not "belong" on campus, then the student may begin to feel "homesick"

What can I do, as a student, to cope with feeling "homesick?"

1. Socialize with Others

  • Try to engage in activities with your roommate, suitemates, or other peers in our residence hall wings or on-campus apartment neighbors
  • Think about joining an on-campus club or organization
  • Try to keep in contact with people you have left behind
    • Encourage others to visit you in your new environment
    • Arrange a time to visit friends and family

2. Set Realistic Expectations for Yourself

  • Remember, you are allowed to feel "homesick" and you are also allowed to socialize and have fun--if you choose to have fun, you are not being disloyal to those that you miss.
  • Establish a balance between work and play--you are not expected to work all of the time, just like you are not expected to play all of the time either.
  • Remember to get enough food and sleep--yes, sleep! Being irritable from not enough food or sleep can affect you physically and emotionally, which can increase feelings of "homesickness"

3. Give Yourself Time to Adjust

  • Remember, you do not have to do EVERYTHING right away, nor should you wait until the last minute; give yourself some time to take it all in. This is a new beginning, so take a step back and think of your options before deciding that possibly returning home would be the best fit.
  • You are not expected to know EVERYTHING the first day of classes. Keep yourself informed, but do not feel like you have to master the subject material prior to attending classes
  • Get acquainted with professors in your department--find resources to help you in your studies, such as tutors, resource centers, resource databases, etc.

What can I do, as a parent, when my child is feeling "homesick?"

1. Be Sympathetic

  • Assure your child that this a normal part of the transition and that it will pass. If you were a college student at one time, sharing your experiences of feeling "homesick" with your child could prove to be highly beneficial.
  • Be sure to provide a good listening ear so that your child knows that you understand what they are going through. As parents, we often want to "fix" things for our children; however, what they need at this time is for you to provide good listening skills and a shoulder to cry on.

2. Check your Emotions at the Door

  • Just like when you dropped your child off for his/her first day of preschool and held back the tears, be sure to do the same when dropping your child off to college. This minimizes the feelings of "homesickness" for your child. Sure, it is completely normal for you to miss your child, just try not to be overly dramatic when leaving campus.
  • It is completely normal to feel sad; however, be sure to keep the conversations with your child as positive as possible. Remember, this is a good transition for him/her that will make a lasting impact.

3. Encourage Your Child to Get Involved on Campus

  • Your child may not feel like joining a club, socializing with friends, and/or meeting new people; however, these are the best things to overcome feeling "homesick."
  • Prior to arriving to campus, have a conversation with your child about his/her interests in regards to different clubs and organizations on campus.


For Parents of College Students

SIUE Campus Recreation

Getting Over Homesickness

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