The holiday break, seemingly never ending, inevitably came to an end. Many students had to leave their families and loved ones and travel back to their life in Anchorage.
The school semester has started and students are slowly meandering back into their schedules. The first week is full of confusion and excitement with new classes, new professors and new faces all around.
Slowly after the adrenaline rush starts to fade and the schedule becomes a repetitive cycle, a new sense starts to creep up on some students – a small anxiety in the back of their mind. There are mixed feelings including loneliness, loss, anxiety and depression that, for once, the dark wintry season can’t be blamed.
It is actually homesickness, and can affect even the most unsuspecting of people.
It hits especially hard after the holiday season and even worse for freshmen who haven’t spent much time away from home. Students go home to visit family and they get adjusted to the ease of living, knowing that the bills will be paid, food will be on the table, and there will always be someone there when you need them.
When they come back to an empty apartment, an empty fridge, and piles of bills waiting there is the overwhelming sense of loneliness. This can develop into a real feeling of homesickness and, even in some cases, depression.
According to the Wellness Center, “Research on homesickness amongst college students shows that 35 percent of new students experience some homesickness, and that between 5 percent and 15 percent describe the experience as frightening: a few will go on to develop depression.”
It is even shown in some studies that homesickness is one of the top 10 reasons that students drop out of college.
This can severely affect a student’s interactions with friends, hinder their participation in extracurricular activities and cause grades to start sliding down.
Tara Middleton, a sophomore was hit hard with the effects of homesickness last year. “It was my first semester at college and everything was great. It was thrilling to be living on my own. I had a 3.2 GPA when the semester ended,” Tara said. “I went home for Christmas break and even though I loved the freedom of living on my own, I never realized how much I missed my family.”
After the semester started up again, Tara was back in her dorm and even though she had a roommate, she felt anxiety and even a creeping depression. “My second semester didn’t end up so well and my GPA slid down to a 2.4.”
Because homesickness is a form of depression, many of the techniques used to defeat depression can be used to help homesickness.
The best way to beat homesickness is to keep in contact with your family. Try calling them once a week to catch up on things, or try texting and emailing.
Really, it’s not that embarrassing to text your mom or your little sister.
Snail mail is also a great way to get more personalized responses, but it takes a while depending on how far it has to go.
If your family doesn’t live too far away, see if you can hop on a cheap flight or train to see them at least once a year during spring break, summer vacation, or winter break. Having your family come visit you is also a lot easier than you visiting them, so alternate every once in a while.
Send gifts such as UAA memorabilia for your family and ask them to send you things from home. Keep a variety of pictures in your apartment or dorm and on your phone and computer. Scrap booking is a fantastic way of keeping all those memories of good times alive.
Also, try to resume life as normal by hanging out with your friends, actively participate in activities that you enjoy, maybe even have a fun night out on the town. If you live alone in an apartment, invite friends over for a study group or movie night. Talk to your friends about your homesickness, because chances are there’s someone out there who is going through the same thing. Take up a new activity such as a sport or join a club. A job is not only a good distraction, but also a good source of extra cash to go do fun things with your friends more often.
If these suggestions don’t improve your homesickness, the health center offers free counseling to anyone that needs it. Even though some people believe it is uncomfortable to go to counseling, or don’t believe that they need counseling, it is better than allowing your grades to sink and your social life to fall apart.