By Jill Yashinsky-Wortman, Assistant Director for Case Management and Student Conduct
Going home after the completion of a school year is typically something students are really excited about. This transition back home, though, can come with some unexpected angst. A few days after returning home, students often find that they miss living in the residence halls, miss being surrounded by all of their friends constantly, and start to talk about how they miss Gonzaga. This transition can be particularly hard for freshman students who have not gone through a “college summer break” before.
Students who have just experienced a year of perceived freedom at college may find home to be somewhat stifling. For the past ten months, they have rarely had to tell anyone where they were going or when they would be back. There was no curfew. Responsibilities such as getting out of their pajamas, cleaning their room, and doing dishes were done whenever it was convenient or necessitated, not when someone else asked them to. This transition back home can be challenging when students feel like their parents have expectations about what, when and how certain things should be done. Take a moment to talk with your student about how your expectations might be similar or different than before they left for college. Touch on things such as curfew, using the car, chores, and other responsibilities they may have previously had. Find mutually agreed upon expectations that acknowledge your student’s new level of responsibility while also respecting the values and rules of your household. This simple conversation can alleviate a lot of angst and future stress.
Missing college friends is one of the greatest challenges. You may see indications of this by how attentive your student has become to his or her cell phone, which may become a lifeline of connection to newfound college friends. As much as students may not have always enjoyed living and sharing a bathroom with numerous other students, they often miss being able to always find someone to hang out with. Some students may have started romantic relationships during the school year that are carrying over into summer.
With all of these new college relationships, students may find that their relationships with high school friends may have changes in inexplicable ways. Often times these changing relationships are a result of friends going to different schools and no longer having as many shared experiences as they did prior to college. Your student may find that she is telling a hilarious story from college, but that what makes the story hilarious is the people in the story that she knows very well—people that her parents and high school friends don’t know in the same way.
The feeling of no one else truly understanding sometimes sets in and causes students to isolate from home life while reaching out to their college friends through technology- phone calls, texts, Facebook, Skype and more. If you find your student spending more time on their phone or computer, it may be their attempt to fill some of the sadness they may feel. Ask your student how they are doing. Encourage them to share more stories or even some pictures of their friends as a way of helping you get to know these people more. If possible, encourage your student to invite some of their college friends over for a weekend. Spending time with your student’s friends provides a great opportunity for you to get to know these people that you hear so many stories about.
The first year of college is also a time when students have been introduced to many new viewpoints and perspectives about a variety of issues. You may hear your student taking a side of a political, religious, or social issue that you have never heard him/her articulate before. Encourage your student to tell you more about how they learned about the issue, what their feelings are, and why they feel that way, even if those viewpoints run contrary to the way your student was raised. Even if you may feel opposite to how your student is feeling, keep in mind that your student has already learned the valuable skill of articulating a viewpoint. Remember that viewpoints are ever evolving and that three more years may drastically change your student’s views time and time again.
All in all, most students are excited to go home to the comforts of home cooked meals, their own bed, family, friends and pets. A few simple conversations can help the transition home go as smoothly as possible!