Wellness Wednesday: Homesickness: even when you least expect it

The moment is finally here: You get to live on your own, make your own rules and have some independence.  It’s the start of your college experience after months of dreaming about it and planning for it.  There are plenty of things to do: meet new friends, find an organization to become a part of, build your resume, learn a plethora of new things in classes and possibly deal with homesickness.

Homesickness usually is not part of many students’ preparation lists as they are getting ready to leave home, although homesickness can be a very natural part of being away at college for some students.   Homesickness can occur in students who were excited to go away to college and experience their newly found independence or in students who were much more hesitant about being away from family and friends.  Nearly 70 percent of incoming first-year students may experience homesickness.

Homesickness can look different for each person. It can include constantly thinking about being home, anxiety/nervousness, decreased motivation, trouble sleeping, appetite changes, feeling different from others, an increase in irritability, loneliness, missing people or pets from home, an increase in negative outlook, sadness, social withdrawal and wishing for a connection with someone.  All of these symptoms of homesickness can make the transition to college more challenging. 

The good news is that with some strategies, homesickness can quickly pass and you can be on your way to a great year.   Remember that these feelings are often more intense at the beginning, and as you get comfortable in new routines, the feelings get less intense.   Try some of these strategies if you are dealing with homesickness.

1. Take some deep breaths; remember why you wanted to come to Pitt and how this fits into the goals you have set for yourself.

2. Talk to people in your Residence Hall: new friends, your RA, or your roommate.   Realize that this is a natural and normal part of transitioning to college.

3. Although you may want to go home more frequently, it is recommended to stay on campus without many transitions back home during your first semester to help with the transition. 

4. Join groups and get involved.  The more you feel connected to campus and a community, the more Pitt will start to feel like home. 

5. Check out one of the homesickness workshops at the Counseling Center in order to learn more skills as well as connect with other students who are feeling the same way.

6. Schedule to call or video chat your friends and family rather than just calling when you are missing home.  Scheduling the call will give you something to look forward to. 

7. Explore the Campus and Oakland.  Find a place that you can get re-centered – a favorite coffee shop, a cool hiking trail or someplace that reminds you of home. Take photos to send to friends and family about the great places you have found.   

8. Make healthy lifestyle choices: working out, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods.  Incorporating these choices into a routine will make things feel less chaotic and more stable.   

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