For freshmen going off to college, the first weeks on campus can be filled
with heady excitement. But as things settle down and the newness wears
off, it's easy for homesickness to set in. "Anxiety, sadness
and an overwhelming yearning for friends and loved ones who are now far
away--those are all hallmarks of homesickness," says
Brenda Manfredi, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at
St. Joseph Health Medical Group. "These feelings can become so intense that a student may feel extremely
isolated or even want to drop out of school. But many students can come
out on the other side of homesickness after a few weeks and have a satisfying
college experience if they take certain steps to build a new life for
themselves." Here are Dr. Manfredi's recommendations for new
college students (or their parents).
1.Talk about these feelings. Surveys have found that the majority of college students experience a
bout of homesickness during freshman year. "Universities have health
centers where students can meet with counselors and work through this
issue," Dr. Manfredi says. "For students in dorms, they may
feel comfortable talking with the resident adviser for peer-to-peer counseling.
Students should never feel they are alone when it comes to experiencing
homesickness; it's a natural reaction, especially for teens who haven't
been on their own before."
2.Call home weekly (not daily). "Calling or emailing parents frequently may feel like it helps homesickness
in the short term, but it really just increases the student's reliance
on home--the more she talks to her parents, the more she'll miss them,"
Dr. Manfredi says. "Students shouldn't cut off all communication,
but a good way to do it is set up regular times for weekly calls. The
student knows she'll get that time to reconnect with family, but she'll
also have the freedom to develop independence and self-reliance in her
Join a club. "Making new friends is key to creating a support system on campus,
and a club is a great way to find people with similar interests,"
Dr. Manfredi says. "Students should also make the effort to get to
know classmates and dormmates in social settings."
Find new interests. "College is a time of discovery, of learning new things and finding
new passions, and that process of discovery can help take students'
minds off homesickness," Dr. Manfredi says. "Students should
make sure to build these pursuits into their college routine--go to foreign
films, join a yoga class, visit a museum, attend lectures on interesting
subjects. There are so many options, and as a bonus, many venues will
offer student discounts to make them more affordable. And exploring the
campus and the town will eventually make it feel more familiar--a little
more like home."
Volunteer for a good cause. "Volunteering has shown proven mental health benefits--it's a
mood booster to do something that helps others," Dr. Manfredi says.
"For instance, the student could volunteer at an animal shelter,
which has an added benefit: A recent study found that college freshmen
who spent time with animals didn't feel as homesick as their peers
and it could lessen the chances that they would drop out of school."
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.