How to Handle Homesickness

Homesickness is a normal response to separation from people, places & things that give you a sense of belonging. Most people experience homesickness at some point in their lives. It is experienced if you move to a new town, start a new job, go away to college, or study abroad.

People who have never experienced homesickness before may suddenly feel overwhelmed & somehow inadequate. It is important to know that homesickness is normal, you are not inadequate, it does pass, & there are some things you can do which may help you get through some of those sad & lonely feelings.

For example, it may be helpful to:

  • Admit that you are homesick. Much of what you know & find comforting is back home. Homesickness is a natural response to this sense of loss. Dr. Will S. Keim notes that you may go through stages of grieving, similar to Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ Five Stages of Grieving. At first you may feel shock & denial, then anger, then bargaining (“I’ll give it another week & then I’m leaving.”), depression, & finally acceptance. This is a process of letting go of the past & taking up a new direction in life.
  • Talk about it with a family member or friend who has had a similar experience. Seek out other people who may be having the same experience right now. (If you are a freshman in college, you can be assured there are others who are feeling similarly.) It takes strength to accept the fact that something is bothering you & to confront it.
  • Bring familiar items from home to your new location. Photos, plants, even stuffed animals help to give one a sense of continuity & ease the shock of a new environment.
  • Decide whether the best policy for you is to have frequent contact with home (because contact makes you feel better), or little contact (because contact makes you feel worse).
  • Familiarize yourself with your new surroundings. Walk around. You will feel more in control if you know where buildings, classes, services, etc. are located.
  • Invite people to explore your new surroundings with you.  Making friends is a big step in alleviating homesickness.
  • Establish a routine as soon as possible. The fuller your days are, the less time you will have to feel homesick or lonely.
  • Examine your expectations. We’d all like to be popular, out-going, well-adjusted, but we’re not. Don’t let setting your goals too high or being perfectionist create more trouble for you. Remember you are learning. Laugh at your mistakes.
  • Seek new opportunities. Seek out activities you are interested in where you might meet people that you would like. Remember there are other people out there experiencing the same feelings that you are.
  • Write family & friends. This can help you feel connected. It is also comforting to receive mail & know that you are missed. You may want to keep a journal as well. This can be a good way to get your feelings out rather than just ruminating about them.
  • Do something! Don’t wait for homesickness to go away by itself. Trying to ignore it only increases the chances that it will resurface as fatigue, a cold, or a headache. If you feel none of your efforts are working, seek professional help. Call the Wellness Center at 704-461-6877, and ask to speak with a counselor.  If you are off-campus or studying abroad, contact your advisor for recommendations.

Belmont Abbey’s Counseling Services Office offers counseling & referral service to all Abbey students. Just call 704-461-5081 for an appointment or further information.