It’s the third week of freshman year, and my sister’s roommate has spent the last week and a half at home. When I was a freshman, I saw the same thing happen to so many of the people I knew. They drop out, either permanently or for only a few days, and head home to their bed and their parents. When going away to college, the most important thing to remember is that first semester of freshman year is the hardest college will ever get for you.
Homesick photo by Casey West
Of course, you rarely hear about how hard going away to college and the first semester can be. In fact, you usually only hear all the good–the wild stories of dorm life, the freedom, the parties. And it’s true–those things really do happen in college, but more often than not, there comes a point when every student realizes that being at college is just plain hard. When have you ever gone somewhere completely new, loaded with strangers, and immediately fell in love and wanted to stay there for four years? Probably never. First semester is a crowded sea of assignments, new faces, and foreign habits–and it’s easy to start to feel like you are struggling to keep your head above water. Worst of all, you may find yourself feeling like you’re the only one having a hard time. You are not alone. I’ve found that you just never know who is struggling to get out of bed everyday, because everyone feels the pressure of going away to college. Pressure that they have to enjoy it, that it has to be the best four years of your life, and that you have to find your lifelong friends right away. But the truth is, even those who look like they have it all together, all figured out, are probably looking around and asking the same questions you are: Why am I here? How can I get people to like me? Where the hell is my next class?
And whether you miss your parents or not, there’s no denying the value of feeling at home. Even if you fought constantly with your parents, you may find yourself missing the familiarity of your room, your desk, your favorite pillow, your dog…Or maybe you just miss your parents and the daily attention and comfort they give you. Going away to college is hard for most people, but its hard for everyone when they get sick, stressed, and tired. When you’re feeling run down, being away from home is that much more challenging. Here’s what helped me (and can hopefully help you) get through the first semester of freshman year:
- Your home, if you’re lucky, will still be there when you return–just as comforting and cozy as you remember it.
- Your parents, if you’re lucky, will still be as nit-picky, boring, annoying, over-protective, and loving as ever when you go back. You won’t lose that, so enjoy where you are now without them always looking over your shoulder.
- Most importantly, feeling like you miss home is a gift. In many ways, going to college shows you what really matters to you–your home-state, the familiar sounds as you fall asleep, the way your mom makes you pancakes…Ultimately, missing your parents, your home, your friends, is a gift because it reminds you that you are loved, you are alive, and you are lucky.So reach out to others–whether they seem happy or not–because it will help both of you. And remember that going away to college can be a blast, and it probably will be, just don’t expect it right away, and don’t run away if it’s not. It’s just life after all, and it’s just school, so why would you love every moment of it? The fact is you won’t, but what you can do is be compassionate toward yourself. Give yourself a chance to settle in, to get used to your new life, to be sad sometimes, and to miss home. If you can do that, I promise the good times will come.