How to cope with homesickness at school

Feeling nervous about leaving home?

Homesickness is so universal—everyone deals with it at some point. Whether it’s missing family, friends, or your favorite local food spot, missing home is completely normal. I went to college 2,000 miles away from home, so I know a thing or two about it. But there are ways to turn your sadness into peace and growth. Here’s how to make homesickness a thing of the past at school.

Keep in touch

Dropping everyone you knew from back home won’t make you feel better. Take the time to schedule regular phone and video calls with your loved ones. If you can, plan a visit home during the semester at least once. This can help you feel more connected to home. Getting to see your friends and family face-to-face is a nice pick-me-up if the semester’s got you down.

Make your school environment feel like home

It never hurts to bring a touch of home to school! Add familiar decorations to your dorm or apartment or use your home living space as inspo as you get new décor. Think about decorative lights, pillows, posters, or photos you have that could bring comfort to your space. Buying new items that remind you of your room at home is a nice way to fuse your style into your new space, too. We can’t forget about food from home, too! Find local restaurants that have food you’re used to or try to re-create your favorite home-cooked meals.

Get involved on campus

One of the best ways to cope with homesickness is by staying busy! Here are a few ways to get out of your dorm and shake off the homesick blues:

  • Join a club. Your campus likely has a host of clubs for so many hobbies and interests. Find one that suits you!
  • Get a part-time job. If you have time in your schedule for one, consider finding a job locally or on campus. Who doesn’t like having some extra cash laying around?
  • Make plans with friends. Hanging out with some buds is a sure way to boost your mood. Link up and get some food, go shopping, or just hang out at someone’s dorm. Spending time with others is uplifting and helps you be happier and less stressedfootnote 1.
  • Focus on your classes. You’re in school to learn, so don’t slack on class. Spend extra time studying, going to office hours, and taking care of homework and discussion boards. This is a productive way to spend your time and alleviate homesickness.
  • Volunteer. Helping others can improve your mental health, releasing dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins that make you feel goodfootnote 2. If you’re feeling low, consider looking for opportunities to help out.
  • Take advantage of campus resources. You know your campus gym? The tutoring center? The library? You’re paying for all of those already—use them!

Open up about your feelings

Bottling up your emotions can do more harm than good. You’re human, and it’s okay to be in your feelings sometimes. Here are some ways to get in touch with your softer side.

  • Go through the motions. Ignoring how you feel isn’t helpful. Recognize that you’re homesick and safely express that. Journaling, writing, eating a comfort food—do whatever works for you.
  • Talk to someone. Your family members, friends, and other loved ones care about you. If you’re struggling, they can help by lending a listening ear and potentially offering advice.
  • Visit a counseling center. When in doubt, use your campus resources. Schools typically have counseling centers that you already pay for with your tuition. Make an appointment or walk in to talk to a counselor if you need to.

Create a routine

College is a time of transition, and it can be hard to settle in when you’re missing your home life. Sticking to a routine can help you transition easier and alleviate some of that sadness.

  • Write it down. Make your new routine concrete—keeping it in your head is a sure way to forget or get confused about what you need to do. Write your schedule down in your phone, computer, or on paper and keep it somewhere easily accessible.
  • Establish routines for the morning and evening. With classes, jobs, and extracurriculars, your mornings and nights might not be the same every day. One schedule might not work all week, so create mini routines for the mornings and evenings as you see fit. Want to fit a gym session and breakfast in before your 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Need to schedule dinner and a nap before your 6 p.m. classes on Mondays and Wednesdays? Make routines for your unique schedule.
  • Incorporate exercise into your routine. And no, it’s not because of the “Freshman 15” (which is a total myth, by the wayfootnote 3). It can do wonders for your physical and mental health. Doing any form of an aerobic exercise, like walking, dancing, or swimming can reduce anxiety and depression, and it can boost your mood and self-esteemfootnote 4. You can kick homesickness to the curb with a nice workout.
  • Have times set for relaxing. Being busy is always a good way to reduce homesickness, but it’s equally important to give yourself time to chill. However you like to relax, take that time for yourself to unwind and get your energy back up.

Things to avoid doing when you’re homesick

I’ve listed a bunch of things you can do to help you get rid of homesickness, but what about things that can make homesickness worse? Try your best to avoid doing these things if you’re feeling homesick:

  • Self-isolation. Community is important, and you won’t feel better if you choose to stay all by yourself.
  • Spending too much time in your dorm room. Hiding away in the comfort of your “home away from home” won’t do you any good. You’ve gotta get out, talk to people, go places, and try new things.
  • Going home too often.  You won’t give yourself enough time to get used to your new environment and become comfortable there if you go home every weekend. You also might miss home even more if you go back and forth too frequently.
  • Neglecting your mental and physical health. Get outside and get fresh air. Move around and get active. Take showers, eat your fruits and veggies, and most of all, get some sleep. You don’t want to let yourself waste away due to homesickness.

Give yourself grace

This is a new journey for you, and it’s normal to feel a lot of things in a short amount of time. You start school feeling excited and on top of the world. Then syllabus week is over, school gets real, and homesickness can start creeping in. One thing to remember is that you’ll always bounce back. Things may suck right now, but it will feel better in time.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

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