Supporting Students Through Homesickness
By: Kayla Zobel, Case Manager, Center for Cura Personalis
That swell of emotions you’ve been feeling over the last 24-hours, week, month or year about your student heading to college are about to be amplified. The step they’re taking is a big transition and navigating this transition can be a roller coaster both emotionally and physically. They’ve been welcomed into a new community, are now living with a roommate, are prepping for college-level courses, and are spending more time away from home. While these all create new and exciting opportunities for your student, these changes also add challenges as they adjust to college.
A decade ago I was at a similar point in life, moving into my first-year residence hall, feeling excited about my classes, and, to be honest, feeling overwhelmed by orientation. The homesickness hit the first night and continued throughout most of my first semester of college. While I felt alone during that semester, I now know that nearly 70 percent of first year college students report feeling homesick according to HERI’s “2016 Your First College Year Survey.”
It is natural for them to miss the familiar comforts of home, their old routine, childhood bedroom, pets, and other conveniences. But, instead of avoiding the conversation or struggling through on their own feelings of homesickness, let’s talk about what you can do to help them cope.
- Encourage them to become familiar with campus
- Talk about how they can explore Gonzaga’s campus and the Spokane community! When we become more familiar with our surroundings, we begin to feel more comfortable. Plus, this is a great way to help them identify study spots, find new restaurants, or discover a new running route.
- Help them develop a “friend family”
- Building new relationships takes time and vulnerability. Encourage your Zag to ask someone new to grab coffee, lunch, or explore Spokane alongside. Everyone is in a similar situation where they want to make new friends so remind them to take this moment to meet new folks!
- Encourage them to try a new club or activity
- Now is the time to try something new! There are a variety of clubs and organizations available for students. Tell them to check out the Fall Club Fair to chat with representatives from these groups or head onto Zagtivities to do some research! With over 140 clubs, intramural sports, volunteer opportunities, student government positions, outdoor adventures, and SpikeNites programming every Friday & Saturday night, there are options for everyone.
- Have them take ownership of their room
- Their room is their new space for the year! Tell them to take time to make it feel comfortable and as “homey” as possible. If that means adding some nice curtains, adding their favorite posters to the wall, or having their bedspread from home, help them however you can.
- Remind them to reach out to resources and lean on their supporters
- Gonzaga’s campus is full of staff and students that are available to support students throughout their collegiate journey. Encourage them to connect with their RA if they’re unsure where to start or reach out to the Center for Cura Personalis to meet with a Case Manager!
- Let them isolate themselves
- Taking time for yourself is healthy but be cautious about your student isolating themselves from their new friends and community-mates. Even spending time in the common area can be a great way to connect with others in their residence hall!
- Let them schedule frequent trips home
- While they may be missing home during the first couple months, going home can often prolong the feelings of homesickness and even intensify these feelings. Encourage them to spend their weekends adventuring in Spokane! Remind them to keep up to date on events in the area through Facebook and Instagram.
Homesickness affects everyone differently and even at different points during their college career (and life…). How someone manages homesickness varies from person to person but the bullets above provide a starting point to help ease your Zag into their transition to Gonzaga.