It can be upsetting, after spending months and even years carefully selecting a university, to find that the initial weeks are weighed down by feelings of sadness, loss, and loneliness. Times of change are stressful, even when the change is one that we have carefully and thoughtfully chosen, and eagerly anticipated for some time.
Often students have mixed feelings about their arrival on campus, and these feelings can open the door to missing the familiar people, routines and sensations of home. Even those who feel eager to be on campus are subject to bouts of occasional loneliness and sadness, thinking of what has been left behind. These feelings are natural and appropriate, often being most intense during personal hard times, or at the time of family holidays or events, like sibling birthdays or family weddings.
Sometimes, however, it seems like the homesickness just hangs on forever and the feelings won't give way. Then students begin to wonder why they are feeling "different" from others, not enjoying their experience at Miami, while everyone else seems to be having such a wonderful time.
Often there is a feeling that "I must be the only person on campus who isn't happy", which leads to even deeper feelings of isolation and separation from the college experience, and sometimes feelings of shame and embarrassment that cause the student to try to bury real feelings of loss and pain, and pretend everything is fine.
The reality is that feelings of homesickness are common, even though many students attempt to disguise or hide them. These feelings can emerge suddenly or build slowly, and are common in upperclass and graduate students, as well as first year and transfer students.
In fact, many seniors experience intense homesickness and feelings of loss for the first time, as they begin to contemplate the meaning of their pending graduation and the more "permanent" transitions implied by that ceremony.
While some homesickness is common and perfectly normal, sometimes the feelings become so persistent and intense that the student has difficulty interacting with friends, may struggle with eating and sleeping, and may even stop attending class and activities, remaining alone in the residence hall for most of the time. These students often spend a large amount of time and money communicating with parents, family and friends from home, usually at the cost of not connecting well with people on campus. Friends and others who know the student may become alarmed for them, or the student may feel on his/her own behalf that the college experience should be different; happier and more involving.
For most students, even intense feelings of loneliness and homesickness will fade as they begin to become immersed in campus life, and make connections with friends, professors, and mentors. If these feelings are not changing after a number of weeks, counseling can be helpful in exploring the factors leading to the homesickness, understanding what may be making the feelings persist, and helping the student to make decisions that can help, involving ways to begin to connect with the university community.
Students who experience extremely painful or very persistent homesickness are encouraged to call the Student Counseling Service to schedule an initial appointment. The intake counselor will help the student to determine the best course for understanding and reducing these difficult feelings.
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Chateau de Differdange
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Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
217-222 MacMillan Hall
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Oxford, OH 45056, USA