Adjusting and settling in to anything new can be scary. Even good changes can make us nervous. For many students, especially in their first year at BU, being away from home for an extended period of time may be an unusual experience.
Early on, it’s not unusual for students to feel a sense of loneliness, sadness, confusion, and preoccupation with thoughts about home. Homesickness can feel similar to grief, as one becomes separated from family, close friends, and familiar places. Your usual supports may not be close by to help you adjust to this unfamiliar environment, but knowing some tips for adjusting can be helpful in navigating this period.
While you work on getting into your new routine, feeling like you are on an emotional roller coaster is common and to be expected. It’s important to take good care of yourself. Remember to:
- Get plenty of sleep
- Eat well
- Get some exercise
- Avoid abusing alcohol and drugs
- Develop a schedule and identify places and times of day for you to study, and relax
It’s okay to feel sad and homesick—but it’s also okay to learn to enjoy your new life even though some family and friends are absent. Here are a few things to try:
- Think of the new experience as the beginning of your adult life—this can be liberating and energizing!
- Practice focusing a little less on your home—don’t text or call family and friends from home all through the day. Schedule specific times to talk with family so that the rest of your time can be spent focusing on your life here at the University.
- Don’t rush into any major decisions straight away about returning home or staying here.
- Think about other times when you may have been away from home and what helped you get those occasions.
- Write down all the positive things about being away from home, like having more freedom.
- Remind yourself of all the reasons why you chose to study at BU.
- Try not to keep looking back, but forward to the new experiences ahead.
You may be worried about making new friends or fitting in. When you look around, it may seem that everyone else is confident and socially connected. The reality is that many people are having similar struggles. A few things to keep in mind:
- Try to just be yourself and relax.
- Don’t expect meaningful relationships to develop overnight. Trust and intimacy in university friendships, like newer relationships in your life, take time.
- It’s unrealistic to expect that roommates will be best friends. Roommates may work out mutually satisfying living arrangements, but the reality is that each may tend to have his or her own circle of friends.
- Reach out to others in your dorm. You are probably not the only one who feels upset. Your RA and older students may also be eager to share their experiences with you.
- For your first few weeks here, challenge yourself to talk to someone new each day.
- Seek out resources on campus that can help you address problems and get academic or personal support. These resources may even connect you with other resources.
- Explore the many BU organizations, events, intramural sports, and other activities that are available. Try not to miss “Splash” and other “Weeks of Welcome” events at the beginning of each semester. Drop in to the Howard Thurman Center for “Coffee and Conversation,” or ask your RA about upcoming social events in your dorm.
A Few More Ideas
- Consider breaking up the semester into smaller chunks by getting a calendar or planner. You can mark when assignments are due, your planned visit home, upcoming holidays, and other events.
- Make your “new home” space into a place you are truly comfortable, combining items that celebrate your life at BU with things that remind you of family and friends back at home.
- You will make mistakes as you explore your new BU life. If you are able to laugh at some of these mistakes it will help you to learn, adapt, and enjoy the experience. As you gain greater understanding and comfort, you can expect your stress to diminish.
- Remember, the more you put into the experience, the more you will learn from it. Try your best to tolerate being uncomfortable at first—it’s normal!—and go out to meet people, form friendships, get involved in activities, and learn about others and their culture. Your time at BU is a rare opportunity to not only broaden your viewpoint but also to mature personally and to understand yourself better.