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How do you combat homesickness?

A: Student smiling holding Dartmouth banner

Under the fears of making new friends, dealing with college academics, and being in a new environment lies a common but often underrepresented worry: homesickness. I know that when I was an incoming student, I often felt that this emotion, or even being afraid of growing up, signified immature or childish parts of myself that made it difficult to reach out for guidance. After all, many people's strongest memories of being homesick in childhood were during summer camps or even their first sleepover. Shouldn't we have grown out of that by now?

I am here to reassure you three things: 1) dealing with homesickness or anxiety during this time of your life is not immature or something to be embarrassed about, 2) you are ready to conquer this hurdle, and 3) you are not alone.

Homesickness often occurs when people leave familiar surroundings; this is the reason why children feel homesick at summer camps and new immigrants long for their home country. For many people in the United States, college is the first time that you are faced with the prospect of becoming independent, paving your own path in life, and growing up. Many of us leave our families, our hometowns, and our familiar ways of life. There is excitement there, to be sure, but there is also a fear and a nostalgia that will inevitably accompany you during this transition. This homesickness is completely normal and not a sign of immaturity or not "being ready" for college. 

And because this emotion is so common in our society, it means that countless numbers of people have faced this very experience and have passed through it with grace. This also means that you are ready to conquer this hurdle yourself! Things that I know certainly helped me to combat homesickness during my freshman year were: calling home regularly, doing self-reflection and writing, having things around from home, keeping busy and socializing with others, continuing traditions (such as having pancakes on Sundays or going to religious services), finding things that you love about your new environment, and watching or reading media where the characters were going through a similar experience.

And lastly, remember that you are not alone! Though it may not look like it, many people at Dartmouth are going through the same things as you are. Reach out to other students or staff that you trust for connection and advice—community is definitely something that Dartmouth students lean on during difficult times, and we will be there from your first bout of homesickness to your last worries about getting a job after graduation, and beyond. 

Making new friends and getting to do the things that I love were the two greatest things that helped me combat homesickness, and Dartmouth is uniquely positioned to give you both as soon as you step on campus. While you can do a lot of self-care and find ways to sort things out yourself, you'll actually find that, over time, you will simply feel homesick less and less. You will make new friends, discover fascinating classes, and find clubs that you resonate with. When you call home, you'll spend less time longing to go home and will spend more time telling friends and family about the funny thing that happened in class that day, the time that you first took a professor out to lunch at Pine, or your very first research or internship offer. You'll start saying you're going "home" when you're going back to the dorms. You'll find things in your new life that you know would make your family at home happy as well, like Cabot Cheese or our famous maple syrup.

And after all is said and done, you will come out of this experience with a greater appreciation for your childhood and an enthusiasm to start this next chapter of your life. It'll take some time, but you will get there. And we will be there right alongside you. 

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