Homesickness: How to cope with leaving the nest


While living on your own for the first time can be exciting, it can also be scary and stressful. For many college freshmen this leads to homesickness.

Twenty percent of college freshmen experience some form of homesickness, according to Dr. Christopher Thurber, co-writer of the pediatrics article titled “Preventing and Treating Homesickness” in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Psychologists describe homesickness as separation anxiety and symptoms include depression and anxiety. Homesickness can hit at anytime and it affects people of all ages. For some, homesickness hits immediately. Others may not experience homesickness until their second semester or second year away from home.

 Thurber has found that homesickness is prevalent in college freshmen because “students leave behind their support system, a sense of familiarity and a level of comfort.”

Homesickness can come in many forms for college freshmen. In one form, students enjoy being at school but miss people, things and places at home. In another, students are so overwhelmed by their new environment that they wish to return home.

Fiona Washington, a third-year pharmacy student from Charlotte, S.C., has attended two universities and said coping with homesickness becomes easier with experience.

“It’s not leaving home that’s the problem,” said Washington. “The problem is getting used to a new routine in a new environment.”

At times, students try to bury or overcompensate for feelings of homesickness by drinking, smoking, doing drugs or participating in risky sexual behavior. However, engaging in these types of activities only suppress those feelings momentarily.

One way to cope with homesickness is to work with your thoughts. Instead of thinking “I hate it here” or “I have no friends here,” keep proactive thoughts in mind, such as “I’m starting a new life for myself here” or “I’m working on building relationships with others.”

Maintaining healthy eating and sleeping habits can help ward off depression and anxiety, which can add to the stress of being away from home. 

Dr. Yolanda Bogan, associate professor and director of FAMU’s Counselor Education Program, said in order deal with homesickness “one must immerse completely into their new environment.”

Bogan also suggests doing things for relaxation, making new friends, seeking new opportunities, and participating in orientation and other activities. Because people tend to gravitate toward the familiar, it may be a good idea to get involved in clubs that include people from your home area.

For students seeking more information or who wish to speak with a counselor regarding how to cope with your homesickness, visit Sunshine Manor, located across from Tucker Hall.

Sunshine Manor, located across from Tucker Hall.