The transition to college or university can be an exciting new experience for many. For some, intense homesickness can make this move difficult. This tip sheet outlines some ideas to manage based on the research literature.
What is homesickness?
Margaret Stroebe and colleagues 2015 systematic review of the scientific literature on homesickness outlined that homesickness is a complex experience.
Researchers regard it as a complex phenomenon with manifestations occurring at different levels, ranging from emotional (e.g., yearning, loneliness), cognitive (e.g., preoccupying thoughts of home and attachment figures), social (e.g., withdrawing from those in the new environment), to somatic (e.g., loss of weight; cf. van Tilburg et al., 1996).
Thurber and Walton (2012) outlined effective strategies for managing homesickness.
- Trying to connect socially (eg, academic, social, artistic, athletic, spiritual) and familiarize yourself with the school before classes begin.
- Understand that it is normal to have feelings of missing home, everyone misses something about home. It is important to have of self-compassion.
- Thinking about homesickness as a positive reflection of the loving attachment you have to the people, places, and things at home. Also, reminding yourself that these people, places, and things are unlikely to disappear and may be enjoyed next time you return home.
- Reduce acculturation stress, (especially for international students) by seeking relevant information (eg, schedule, geography, resources), getting involved in community connections (eg, social, spiritual, culinary), and opportunities to celebrate homeland traditions (eg, international fairs, transportation to cultural centres and places of worship).
- Manage your mindset and circumstances by talking with a trusted peer, doing something fun and physical, making new friends, thinking positively about school, keeping time in perspective, getting into university school life, and sustaining the coping effort.
- Be connected with home, and be aware that overuse of Skype, Instant Messaging, Facetime and other easy ways to connect with home. These can also be a roadblock to forging new social connections and comfortable familiarity with your new setting.
- If you are an international student having friendships with host-country students as well as homeland students can be beneficial in reducing homesickness.
- Remind yourself that changes in homesickness are gradual, there is no immediate fix. A sustained effort to focus on the positive aspects of the new school environment, to develop social connections, to establish one’s competencies, and to maintain a healthy connection with home will slowly diminish the intensity of homesickness.
- Maintaining your general health and wellness will also influence feelings of homesickness.
- If difficulties continue seek professional support.
Terry (2013) found that students who scored higher in self-compassion weathered difficulties more successfully, reported lower homesickness and less depression, and expressed greater satisfaction with their decision to attend the university.
Stroebe, M., Schut, H., & Nauta, M. (2015). Homesickness: A systematic review of the scientific literature. Review Of General Psychology, 19(2), 157-171. doi:10.1037/gpr0000037
Terry, M. S. (2013). Self-compassion as a Buffer against Homesickness, Depression, and Dissatisfaction in the Transition to College. Self & Identity, 12(3), 278-290.
Thurber, C. A., & Walton, E. A. (2012). Homesickness and Adjustment in University Students. Journal Of American College Health, 60(5), 415-419.
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