By Mary Anne Knapp, LCSW, Clinical Social Worker
“There’s no place like home”, “Home is where the heart is.”, and “You can never go home again” are all popular sayings about the importance of home. In fact, most students experience some degree of homesickness (the longing for home, family, friends or familiar environment) when they first come to Penn State. A large university setting is different from most students’ previous experiences.
Homesickness can involve feelings of anxiety about separation from loved ones or anxiety about your performance. Feelings of isolation, feeling different from others, feeling depressed with low motivation to study or make friends can also be experienced as part of homesickness. Yearning for a connection to someone who will “take the pain away and make things seem alright” is a common reaction as is constantly thinking of home itself. Nighttime or other times when you aren’t busy can be particularly difficult.
While homesickness can be painful, it also presents an opportunity to grow beyond what you were and to expand your comfort zone. It presents a chance to take charge of life and learn new skills for dealing with emotions and with others. When you work to master homesickness and expand coping skills, this usually leads to increased self-esteem and a sense of independence.
Coping with Homesickness
Here are some suggestions to keep in mind about coping with homesickness while creating a second home at Penn State:
- Accept that it may take some time for you to feel as comfortable at school as you do at home. You may feel a sense of loss and discomfort with all of the changes, but you are capable of surviving these feelings if you allow yourself to relax and explore.
- Analyze your Homesickness. What experience, thing or person are you missing the most? Are you longing for someone to listen to you? Do you long to meet people to hang out with? Do you miss your role as a student leader? Have you had trouble finding students with similar values or life experiences? Ask yourself what things you can control.
- Participate in events to learn about Penn State and to meet others. Participate in events to learn about Penn State and to meet others. Click here for the directory of Penn State student organizations.
- Take Action. Structure your time and open up to Penn State experiences that may replace those at home. Decorating your room, learning where to play your favorite sport, going to a movie, finding out about student organizations on campus and even studying for classes are examples of activities to help you
- Plan trips home and maintain contact with family by phone, email and/or IM. Remember that a continuing psychological connection with home and loved ones exists even when you are not there physically.
- Limit the amount of time you consciously think of home. Refocus on what you can do now at Penn State.
- Focus on things that relax you—Deep breathing, listening to music, going for a walk, exercising, or talking to a friend.
- Try to make new friends by talking with other students on your floor, in classes or those sitting in the HUB/Robeson Center.
- Go for help if you continue to feel distress, if you feel suicidal or desperate. You can talk with Peer counselors at Lion Support at 863-2020, your RA or Area Coordinator or call The Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to schedule an appointment for professional counseling at 863-0395.
- Remember to enjoy this new experience.