Homesickness


What is homesickness?

Most people will have felt homesick at some time in their lives, perhaps when they were younger, and it is easy to forget just how overwhelming it can be.

Coming to college naturally generates both excitement and anxiety about the move, academic work, meeting new people. For some, this apprehension is quickly overcome as they adapt to a new environment; for others the transition takes longer and sometimes emerges as homesickness where there is a preoccupation with home-focused thoughts. There is a yearning for and grieving over the loss of what is familiar and secure: most often it is about the loss of people - family and friends - but it is also about the loss of places and routines.

Those who experience homesickness might notice an increase in depressed feelings, anxiety, obsessive thoughts and minor physical ailments. Homesickness can often be distinguished from depression in this way - in depression sufferers find both university and home awful, whereas in homesickness university can feel awful while home may be seen in rose-tinted hues.

Research on homesickness amongst university students in Britain shows that 35% of new students experience some homesickness, and that between 5% and 15% describe the experience as frightening: a few will go on to develop depression.

Some students will start by being mildly depressed and anxious several weeks before leaving home, in anticipation of the impending change. Others will be fine initially, and then to their surprise find themselves feeling homesick later in the academic year, perhaps after the Christmas break, or even at the start of their second academic year. But commonly it is the first few days or weeks after arriving at university which are the most difficult.

Students are not immune just because they have successfully experienced leaving home before. Vulnerability to feeling homesick is affected by:

Those who are homesick often feel they have no control over their environment, and that they are not identified with it or committed to the university or their place in it.

Transition to the University

There are two tasks involved in starting at university :

Individuals have different levels of tolerance to change and have learned different ways of coping with new situations. But what can make transition so hard? In a familiar place people generally feel accepted and secure, and are therefore able to function and meet challenges successfully. Away from the familiar, they are without their usual sources of support, and in unfamiliar surroundings their tried and tested methods of coping and working are challenged; "failure" looms large and self esteem and confidence drops. Tasks which would normally have been taken in one's stride, can suddenly seem quite a challenge, or even feel impossible.

What might help?

We hope that some of these suggestions will prove useful. There are many things you can do to help yourself, but don't hesitate in seeking out the help of others. Homesickness is not unusual - and it can be conquered! To schedule an appointment at the Indiana State University Student Counseling Center call (812) 237-3939 or stop by the 3rd Floorl of the Student Services Building anytime between the hours of 8:30 - 4:00, Monday - Friday.