By: Meg Hudson, Staff Writer
Featured image courtesy of theconcordian.com
Holding newfound freedoms and new beginnings, moving on to campus can be a big environmental change. As a result, some students could become vulnerable to feeling homesick. Towson offers a variety of resources to students for being successful and happy in their environment.
“Going away to college is a big change where students are often moving from an environment that has been comfortable, to a new way of life that does not feel as familiar,” said Alessandra Pieraccini, a staff psychologist at Towson’s Counseling Center. “Homesickness can take many forms, such as moments of longing for home or a specific person, sadness, irritability, or feeling nostalgic. It can lead to experiences such as crying for seemingly no reason, feeling lonely, socially isolating, low motivation, [and/or] thinking about home.”
Pieraccini recommends speaking with family members prior to moving out, to discuss topics such as communication, stress, and ways to cope.
“How often do you want your parents to call or text you?” Pieraccini asked. “Would it be helpful to schedule a weekly FaceTime date with your significant other or best friends from home?”
Additionally, Pieraccini shared that it was important to discuss how a friend or family member can help in times when something is wrong. She stressed how communication can become difficult when there is distance involved. If topics such as these are discussed prior to moving on campus, chances are family and friends will better understand exactly how they can help from far away.
While preparing for homesickness may be beneficial to some, others do not even think about the possibility of feeling homesickness until these feelings actually begin happening, according to Pieraccini.
For Dylan Hubbs, a sophomore, homesickness was something that came as a surprising obstacle he had to overcome his first year of college. His way of coping included paying attention to his needs and staying occupied.
“[What helped was both] time and realizing it can’t be cured by just doing one thing,” Hubbs said. “I had to realize trying to go back home wouldn’t help and trying to stay in contact more wouldn’t help either. Just keeping myself busy and focusing on work and friends always helped, but the best thing was just time.”
Hubbs’s solution to handling his homesickness wasn’t out of the ordinary; time was another recommendation Pieraccini suggested for getting over homesickness.
“Try not to be discouraged if you feel homesick immediately and it seems like no one else around you is feeling the same,” Pieraccini advised.
Pieraccini offered some advice on how to combat homesickness while on campus. First, she recommends turning that blank dorm room into a personalized living space. She said you can do so by bringing pictures, blankets from home, posters, or other decorations that offer you satisfaction. Secondly, she advised the practice of self-care.
“Take care of yourself and your basic needs,” Pieraccini also suggested. “And get involved on campus at your own pace.”
Jaelyn Heyliger, a Towson student who experienced feelings of homesickness, used the act of pushing herself outside of her comfort zone and getting involved to ultimately overcome her struggles.
“I have felt homesickness before,” Heyliger said. “It made me feel lonely and sad. Originally I would stay in my room, not go out, and call my mom crying. Joining clubs and meeting new people helped me feel better.”
Pieraccini suggests discussing any feelings and emotions to those who may be struggling with homesickness.
“Chances are many others in your residence hall are feeling (or have felt) similar to you,” Pieraccini said. “If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your peers or friends, your RA is also a great resource.”
Pieraccini urged students to seek out available resources if they find themselves struggling.
“Use the resources available to you,” Pieraccini added. “If you start to see yourself falling into unhealthy patterns, don’t wait until things worsen. Many students meet with therapists at the Counseling Center to help them adjust and cope with being away.”
Pieraccini said that homesickness can feel like a tricky thing to handle when dealing with pre-existing or developing mental health conditions.
“Going through such a big change with newly added stressors can sometimes result in one’s mental health worsening or declining,” Pieraccini said. “Students with pre-existing mental health conditions may notice symptoms they typically have under control returning or worsening. And even students who have never experienced mental health difficulties before may notice increased anxiety or sadness as a result of this change.”
She advised that students who have found previous success through ongoing therapy, contact the Counseling Center to schedule an appointment, or receive help finding a long-term therapist close by. Pieraccini also stressed the need to self-assess and examine your coping skills, as well as any signs of your conditions worsening.
“It is important to make a plan for what coping skills work,” Pieraccini said. “Also continue to take care of yourself and your basic needs, as these can largely impact your mental health and functioning.”
Pieraccini said that students feeling homesick are not alone.
“No matter how close or far you are from home while at TU, the process of coming to college can be a difficult adjustment,” Pieraccini shared. “Remember that homesickness is natural and temporary. Be kind to yourself, as you will adjust at your own pace.”
Towson University offers many resources to help students feel comfortable in their new community. Towson’s Counseling Center has therapists that offer free, confidential short term individual and group counseling to students for a wide range of concerns. The Counseling Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.am., and appointments can be made by calling (410-704-2512) or by walking in. Towson also offers a range of clubs and activities for students to join, such as Greek life, recreational sports and performing arts.
“Getting involved and staying busy, while meeting new people is a great way to battle homesickness,” Pieraccini said.
Additionally, family weekend is Oct. 12-14, a great opportunity to reconnect with family members while enjoying activities together on campus.