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Homesickness and Adjustment


Feeling Homesick is Common, but it Gets Better

The beginning of university studies can be a time of major change, and you may experience difficulties adjusting. Students often experience homesickness and other kinds of discomfort and distress related to adjusting to new living situations, increased academic demands, changes in relationships, and adaptation to sometimes unfamiliar roles and responsibilities that are part of independently managing their own lives at college.

Even students who feel initially excited and positive about starting university studies, may find themselves feeling down, overwhelmed, uncertain, or just out of sorts. The range of feelings can be—at least for a few weeks—more complex and intense than you are used to.

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Common Symptoms

For many first year students, university life can bring up one or more of the following:

  • self-doubt about your academic and social skills
  • problems with organization and time management; loss of concentration
  • digestive issues or loss of appetite
  • feeling physically unwell
  • concern about fitting in and finding new friends
  • loneliness, anxiety, and depression
  • difficulty sleeping, fatigue
  • conflict with roommates or stressful dormitory dynamics
  • feeling overwhelmed by academic demands and deadlines
  • strong feelings of missing home or longing for familiar people and places  

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Some Tips to Help Cope

The following are some tips that have been shown to help university students cope with homesickness and adjustment challenges:

  • Assure yourself that homesickness and other adjustment challenges are common for many students and that it may take some time before you feel more at ease in the university setting. There will almost always be something you miss about home, so exercise compassion for yourself. Missing what we hold dear or what is simply familiar is part of being human.
  • Remind yourself that missing home is a positive sign of your loving attachment to family, friends, and familiar objects and places. Most of the things you miss will most likely still be there when you visit or return home.
  • You can exercise control over your adjustment process by talking with trusted peers, engaging in fun physical activity, getting involved in university life, making some new friends and building supportive bonds, and thinking positively about your unique university experience. Give yourself some time to experiment and to explore who you are in this new setting.
  • Dive into all that your university can offer you academically, socially, artistically, athletically, culturally, and so forth. University are places of great activity and engagement. The more you explore what is going on here, the more likely you are to feel you are part of it all. See the link to Campus Life and other resources below.
  • As much as possible, avoid developing unhealthy habits such as staying up very late, eating junk food, binging on TV or video games, skipping meals, or using alcohol / drugs. While these activities may seem to help you cope with your discomfort in the short term, they tend to make you feel worse over the long run.
  • Make a plan for how much contact you will have with people at home. When contact is too frequent (calls, texts or emails every day), students often feel more homesick.  Find a balance that works for you and your loved ones and stick to it.

If you feel intense homesickness that does not seem to be lessening after a few weeks, or you just don’t feel you are adjusting well to university life, you may want to consider making an appointment to speak with a counselor at Counseling Services in the Student Services Building. Counseling services are confidential and the professional counselors there have experience supporting students who need help coping with homesickness and other adjustment challenges.

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Resources


Ulifeline Online resource for college mental health

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Counseling Services are free and confidential for all UH Hilo students. We welcome questions, comments and feedback about our website at uhhcouns@hawaii.edu.