Homesickness doesn’t have to be an uphill battle

Homesickness doesn’t have to be an uphill battle

By Genesis Cosme

Homesickness doesn’t have to be an uphill battle

By Genesis Cosme
Undergraduate students reflect on leaving the nest, share their experiences with homesickness, and give advice to first-year students on powering through their first year at UM

Living miles away from the familiar support system of family and friends can make the transition from high school to college difficult for first-year students. However, while the symptoms of homesickness can feel painful and personal, the feeling is perfectly normal.

In a national study, it was found that homesickness is a common first-year student experience with 30 percent of students reporting high levels of separation homesickness. Of those students, 27 percent miss their family and 34 percent miss their old friends.

At the same time, homesickness doesn’t have to define your first year of college. Take it from three upper-year students and the director of Housing and Residential Life, Ivan Ceballos, who reminisce on their college experience and share their wisdom on not only making it through but making the most out of this formative year.

Anuj Shah, senior neuroscience major from Jacksonville, Fla.Anuj Shah

The first time Shah started feeling homesick was when he realized how disconnected he was from his twin sister. "I couldn't just walk over to her room and hang out like we used to," he said. "In the end, my sister and I got much closer because we were able to grow as individuals."

When asked to give his younger self advice on overcoming homesickness, he returned to what made him choose to attend the University of Miami in the first place. "I chose UM because I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and challenge myself in a new environment," he said. "Miami is unlike any other place you've ever experienced, and you're not alone in these feelings. Spend time with your peers who will become your family and Miami will become your home soon enough."

Pranav Chugh, senior political science major from Vorhees, N.J. Pranav

When Chugh is away from home, holidays and family functions are hardest to miss. "Missing my nephew’s birthday was the first big reminder that I am not able to see my family as often as I prefer,” he said. “I felt even more homesick when Hurricane Matthew canceled Family Weekend in 2016, so I had to wait an extra month to see my parents again.”

Still, Chugh doesn’t let the distance between himself and his loved ones get to him. Planning more trips home throughout the semester, sending gifts, putting up pictures in his room and calling his family often, especially when he’s not there for a birthday or holiday, makes all the difference. “Keeping those homesick feelings internal will only make the situation worse," he adds. "If I could speak to my freshman-year-self, I would advise him to be honest with his parents and to speak up when he feels down.”

Ellie Massaro, junior computer science major from Lakeland, Fla.Ellie

Massaro looked forward to starting her junior year at the end of summer vacation, so she wasn’t expecting to feel homesick when her mom left after move-in day. “This is the first year I’ve had a bedroom to myself,” said Massaro. “Not being in such close quarters to someone else made me feel a little more lonely than usual.”

According to Massaro, getting over homesickness takes time, but it helps to get your mind off of it by focusing on your other goals. She reminds first-year students that many of their peers may also be in the same position as them. “Try not to stay cooped up in your room. Confide in your friends and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I bet you’ll find that you’re not alone in your homesickness.”

Ivan V. Ceballos, director of residential life for Housing and Residential LifeIvan Ceballos

Ceballos looks back on his own first year of college when his family used to send him care packages with treats from back home, like pastelitos, which he would share with his friends. He encourages students to reflect on their interests and to share that “something special” with others. “It can be rejuvenating to catch up with loved ones and Facetime during a special event, however, you should learn to balance this with building new connections.

He suggests that students ask themselves, “Why did you choose UM? How do you like to spend your time? What excites you most about the year ahead?” He then encourages students to, “use this reflection as an opportunity to look around and find people with similar passions. Homesickness is often caused by missing something special to you. Whether its sharing treats or memories from back home, use it to connect with your peers. Sometimes it’s just what is needed to keep your successful transition going.”