Homesickness Happens

Preparing while you’re still at home may help.

You’re moving away from home, going out on your own and completely changing your life and routine. This is a big deal. Homesickness is an adjustment disorder that hits just about everybody at some time. Erika Martinez, a licensed psychologist with Envision Wellness in Miami, shares her answers to questions about how to prepare both you and your family for the move.

Q: Am I the only one who feels this way?
A: I don’t know anyone who didn’t experience homesickness in some shape or form after moving away from home. Even kids who are in tough family situations experience it. It’s just natural to miss what you’re used to, including your family, pets, friends and routines. The symptoms vary depending on the severity of your condition and could include anxiety and depression.

Q: What can I do now to prepare?
A: Do something that will get you away from home for a while so you can get a taste of what independence feels like before graduation. Stay with family in another city for a week or two this summer, go to camp or participate in an exchange program. If you’re a senior, consider enrolling in a shortened summer semester so your first experience away from home only lasts a few weeks, not months.

Q: What about once I graduate?
A: If you can, live on campus. There are more opportunities to meet people and make friends. Get involved with organizations and clubs. Talk to your roommate or RA about your feelings, and if you need to, visit the school’s counseling center. Human beings are social creatures. It’s important to have a strong network of people around you.

Q: Any tips for talking with my parents?
A: Open honest communication is always best. Your parents might not realize they’re making things worse by telling you how much they miss you or how much fun they’re having redecorating your old bedroom. It’s okay to say something like “I miss you and I love you, but this is harder than I thought it would be.”

I missed all the little things, like having my dog greet me when I walked through the front door. I missed home cooked meals and hanging out with my brother. I missed watching football with my family or the time we would spend in the mornings drinking coffee and talking before the day began.”

– Jamie Calvert 19, sophomore at University of West Florida in Pensacola

Other problems you may face as a freshman, plus tips on how to deal.

Stress and anxiety Breathe! Make time for relaxation, self-reflection and gentle stretch-ing. Avoid harmful substances and excessive alcohol intake.

Weight loss or gain Eat healthfully and don’t skip meals. Make time to exercise.

Cold and flu symptoms Wash your hands often, get regular checkups and stick to a sleep schedule.

Relationship issues Spend time with people whose company you actually enjoy; avoid negative relationships. Make an effort to stay in touch with people who are important to you.

Time management freak-outs Ask RAs, upperclassmen and friends who seem to have it together for tips on time management. Don’t bite off more than you can chew!