Homesickness & Maintaining Long Distance Relationships
College is a series of new adventures every day — new school, new friends, sometimes a new city or even new state, and a new phase of your life with arguably more independence and responsibilities. With that, however, comes a new challenge of navigating relationships with family and friends at a distance. The people you went to high school with will no longer be the classmates you see every day and more often than not, you won’t be living at home anymore so you will no longer have your family there at the end of every day (I will say though that your roommates and college friends do become your chosen family and will be there at the end of the day so don’t worry too much!). Looking back, I realize that I really struggled with homesickness during my first year. Especially since most of my loved ones are on the west coast, it was challenging to keep in touch with the 3-hour time difference. That being said, now as an old and wise sophomore (totally joking), I feel like I have more insight on how to navigate these relationships while in college so keep reading to hear the best tips I have learned.
Take advantage of technology to communicate at a distance -
I know it seems obvious, but sometimes it really is easy to forget how lucky we are that seeing and talking to people is as easy as pushing a button on our phones. While online communication really isn’t equivalent to spending time together in person, when you are at a distance from the people you love, a phone call can make all the difference. I talk to my mom on the phone pretty much every day (and I’m not embarrassed to say it) and am constantly texting, snapping, or FaceTiming my friends and family from home to try to keep them updated on my life. I will say, however, that sometimes college can be a bubble and it becomes challenging to maintain constant communication. I recommend scheduling phone/Facetime calls or sending random texts whenever you’re thinking about someone from home. I know I will call or text my friends and family at random times (even with a 3 hour time difference) and I have come to accept the fact that they may not answer right away but that we will eventually talk about whatever is going on.
Take it back and write letters/postcards -
When I was younger, I was always a huge fan of having a pen pal and would always write letters to my friends. As I got older, I stopped doing this but once I got to college I started several little traditions with a lot of my friends from home of sending each other letters or small gifts as a way of having a physical representation of one another. It may seem silly but I know for me, getting a letter from one of my friends from home or those that are studying abroad right now really makes my day no matter what. Also, whenever I send a letter I try to include a small item that reflects my life here so they can be a part of it — some things I have sent are an I <3 NY pin, a bracelet from the holiday market in Central Park, and a Barnard sticker. Parents if you’re reading this, college students LOVE care packages with reminders from home so if it is feasible for you all I would highly recommend sending one every once in a while.
Plan ahead for when you will see each other -
This tip has worked especially well for me but I understand how it could also make things more challenging for others to think about how long it will be until they see their loved ones. I think, however, that making plans and talking about what you will do when you reunite can be a positive way of finding happiness in what’s to come. With my friends I always try to pick specific places I want to visit or activities I want to do and talk about it with them whenever I’m missing home as a way of getting excited. When I’m at school I always tell my mom all of the dishes I want her to cook me when I get back and while it makes me nostalgic it also gives me something concrete to look forward to. Time passes much faster than you can even imagine and while something could feel really far away, I promise you it will be here much sooner than you think.
Be gentle with yourself and acknowledge your feelings are valid -
Sometimes in college it can be easy to feel like you’re the only one going through something like feeling homesick. I know I personally spent some time at the beginning of my college career feeling like I was the only one that missed my friends and family. I am here to assure you though that so many people (I mean SO many people) feel homesick in college and these feelings are completely valid. Here at Barnard my friends and different groups on campus like Mujeres and Women of Color Support Group really helped me feel supported and less alone. My friends, co-workers, and mentors on campus have truly become my second family and I know I can always count on them to be there for me when I need anything. Always remember to be kind to yourself and accept that you are human and are allowed to feel whatever you need to.
Don’t be afraid to branch out -
As I said before, college is all about new things and stepping out of your comfort zone. While it can sometimes be challenging, I definitely think branching out and trying to meet new people is the best way to deal with homesickness and missing your friends. Don’t think about it as replacing anyone but more of creating new relationships that can help you navigate the transition. Again, my friends here have become my second family as well as the organizations I am a part of that have truly made my experience here a dream. So, take risks, reach out to new people, join clubs, and try to live in the moment as much as possible.
As always, best of luck with everything! 💖