Homesickness 101: UT Experts Offer Advice for Dealing with this Normal Woe

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As students return to campus this week, they’ll be excited, nervous, busy, and, maybe, a little bit homesick.

“Many students leaving home for college feel some level of sadness and longing for home,” said T. Paul McAnear, director of clinical services at UT’s Student Counseling Center. “Missing loved ones and friends is normal. It means that those relationships and experiences are meaningful and hard to lose. Problems arise when homesickness becomes so intense that it interferes with adjustment to the university environment.”

McAnear and his colleagues at UT’s Student Counseling Center offer these tips for avoiding or managing homesickness:

  • Stay in touch with loved ones. Thanks to electronic communication and social networking, communicating with those at home can be nearly seamless. Students should try to call home when they’re feeling positive. It’s easy for them to get into the habit of calling when they have a problem and this may only accentuate the problems, both in their mind and the minds of their family members.
  • Build a new social network. While it’s fine to stay connected with family, students should make a point of building new friendships on campus. Students should spend most of their social time each day with people on campus and connect with folks back home no more than once a day, except in emergencies.
  • Think positively. Students who are homesick are convinced that home is better than campus. They are remembering the good parts of home and ignoring the bad. They need to turn the table on homesickness. Think positively. Notice the good and ignore the bad. Students should focus on what they enjoy about college—the people they’ve met, the experiences they’ve had, and all of the things they’re looking forward to doing.
  • Stick around on weekends. Frequent trips home may actually worsen the stress of adjusting to campus. Adjusting to college life requires care and cultivation, time and commitment.
  • Make occasional trips home. Again, the key is balance. Going home for a home-cooked meal and extra sleep in a familiar bed can be rejuvenating.
  • Get enough rest. Meeting new people and doing new things can be fun but also exhausting. Students should try to get eight hours of sleep nightly. Routinely getting fewer than six hours of sleep may contribute to persistent fatigue and irritability and may exacerbate problems with coping.
  • Stay active and engaged. Students should get active on campus doing something they enjoyed at home—exercising, socializing, gaming, shopping, reading, etc. Soon enough, the new environment will feel like home.

Finally, students who have tried these tips and are still feeling bad should seek help.

Sometimes, feelings of sadness and loneliness can become overwhelming and last longer than a few days. This is especially true for someone who is worried about family conflicts, divorce, family health problems, job loss, financial crisis, or other situations. If this is the case, discuss concerns with a staff person like a resident advisor, faculty advisor, or another trusted person.

At UT, more specialized help can be found at the Student Health Center, 1800 Volunteer Blvd. Call 974-3648 for appointments or call 974-3135 for information.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

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