Homesickness Is Where the Heart Is
By: Colleen Joyce
Everyone knows and loves the saying “home is where the heart is”- but what happens when you find yourself in your new home for the next few years, completely missing the aspects of your real home (the ones you swore you would never miss)?
The adjustment to college is not an easy one. While some find it much easier to adapt to a new setting, new people, and a new way of life, others struggle to find their place as they enter college. This often leads to what is so lovingly referred to as homesickness.
Here is the thing about homesickness, though- it is incredibly difficult to admit that we are feeling homesick. From wishing you could be back in your childhood bedroom with your parents, to watching your high school friends seem so happy at their respective schools, homesickness can impact how we go about our every day, new lives. So why is it such a taboo subject to discuss?
I felt lucky during my first semester of college. I found friends rather quickly, got along quite well with my roommate, and was thoroughly enjoying the college experience. I called home maybe once or twice a week just to let my parents know that I was alive and having a wonderful time. My social media highlighted some of the best moments from that year; To myself and the outside world, I was having the time of my life. I was looking forward to coming home for Thanksgiving to see some of my childhood friends and spending the week with my family, but the entire time I was home, I was dreaming about going back to school. To me, there was no possible way that I could feel homesick throughout college- the time had already passed for those sorts of feelings.
I felt this way until my second semester. With the spring came feelings of missing home, and I for sure missed every single aspect of home. I found myself wishing I could be back at home with my parents and pets, driving my car, going to all of the places I was most familiar with in my hometown. I worried my parents to the bone with the number of calls they received from me during the week. Every day I woke up with the existential dread of feeling like I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. It was, in short, miserable. I didn’t understand why I was missing home so much- wasn’t that only supposed to be a first-semester feeling?
Sure, my parents said that everyone feels homesick every so often at school- but I rarely heard it from friends or even other college students in my family. Social media was of no help, as it seemed everyone was having the time of their lives while I struggled to enjoy myself as I did during the first semester. Initially, I thought I had curbed the timeline for homesickness; Of the few people, I knew who experienced a longing for home exclusively felt that way during the first semester. No one told me that missing home could come later in the college experience, and it set me up to feel lonely, displaced, and unenthusiastic about my future at school.
I think a lot of times, fear of homesickness talks comes from the following elements. Being afraid of judgment from friends or family, worrying about being accused of “peaking in high school,” or seeming like you hate your college makes the subject feel next-to-impossible to talk about without being embarrassed. Social media can even play into the taboo environment- if everyone is having as much fun as their Instagram or Snapchat says they are, there is no way they feel as homesick, right? These misconceptions are what lead to college students feeling so alone in their struggle with homesickness. This begs the question, then- how do we end the stigma around homesickness, and normalize feeling this way?
So here is the advice I wish I had been given: it is entirely normal to feel this way, no matter when you feel it. For many people, the first semester is when they experience the most amount of homesickness- the stretch from move-in day to Parent’s Weekend or Thanksgiving can be challenging. Alternatively, the second semester can be even harder for some. Comparing your feelings of homesickness between two semesters can be detrimental to enjoying college.
Another piece of advice: it is entirely normal to feel this way, and talking about it with someone can make it feel even more normal. My biggest regret was not telling anyone that I was feeling lonesome and homesick, and thinking that I had to deal with it alone. One of the most significant disadvantages of assisting these feelings is making it such a taboo topic to discuss. I’m here to say that it doesn’t have to be. If you get anything from this piece of writing, I beg that it is this: you do not have to feel alone in your homesickness. There are tons of people who have and are currently feeling the same way as you. Reaching out to friends, family, or even your on-campus counseling center can help greatly. Talking out your feelings in any situation, and particularly in cases of homesickness, helps in lifting the weight off your shoulders.
As mentioned multiple times, you are not alone in your homesickness. By recognizing that these feelings are both reasonable and temporary, and knowing that others have felt the same as you, coming to terms with homesickness becomes much more manageable. Coming to terms with these feelings eventually lead to genuinely aligning with the phrase “home is where the heart is”- and luckily, the heart can be both in your college and in your hometown.