5 Tips for Dealing with Homesickness at College

Medically reviewed by: Rachel Hughitt, MS
Friday, August 11 2023

For any college student, moving away from home is a new experience, and it’s tough to know what to expect. Whether you’re moving across the country or an hour away, you may feel overwhelmed with excitement or nerves, or a little bit of both. For some college students, transitioning to college can sometimes lead to feeling homesick. 

If you’re struggling with being homesick and adjusting to college life, don't worry, it's perfectly normal. What’s important is that you learn to cope with these feelings so you can take care of your well-being and thrive in your new environment. 

Here, we'll provide some helpful tips on coping with homesickness and making the most of your college experience. Plus, learn the difference between feelings of homesickness and more serious mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression, and how SonderMind can help you get some extra support. 

What is homesickness? 

Homesickness can feel and look different for everyone. While homesickness isn’t an actual clinical diagnosis, the feelings that may come along with moving away from home for the first time are very real. They may include: 

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Grief over the loss of familiar surroundings 
  • Feeling anxious or nervous 
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding other people 
  • Wanting to stay in your room 
  • Thinking about home often and feeling nostalgic about reminders of home 
  • Being easily irritated by new things 

It’s normal to feel this way when you’re not only living somewhere else for the first time, but also adjusting to a new schedule, social surroundings, and responsibilities. That being said, you don’t have to spend all your time at college missing home — there are ways to overcome feeling homesick so you can better adjust to your new home on campus and start to focus on all the positives of your college experience. 

5 ways to deal with being homesick at college

If you’re experiencing homesickness while away at college, consider trying out to following tips to help combat it: 

1. Explore your campus and surrounding area 

When you first move to a new place, everything may feel unfamiliar, which can increase your feelings of loneliness and homesickness. To combat this, try to get familiar with your campus and the local area. Explore the different buildings and facilities on campus and learn where everything is located. Additionally, check out local restaurants, coffee shops, and entertainment spots near your campus. Not only will this help you adjust to your new home, but it will also give you the opportunity to connect with other students and make new friends.

2. Keep in touch with your family and friends

Staying connected with your family and friends from home can help remind you of all the support you have when adjusting to college life, even if you no longer share a zip code with them. Schedule regular calls, texts, and video chats with your loved ones. Seeing familiar faces or hearing familiar voices can create a sense of comfort and help you feel like you’re not so far away from home. Remember, just because you’ve moved away, doesn’t mean home isn’t still there. 

3. Get involved on campus 

College is a unique experience, and it presents a variety of opportunities to explore your interests and passions. Getting involved in on-campus clubs, organizations, and extracurricular activities can give you a sense of purpose and belonging during your time away from home. Additionally, it's an opportunity to connect with other students who share your interests and build long-lasting friendships.

4. Take advantage of campus resources

Most colleges offer a variety of support services and resources to help students cope with the transition to the college environment. Don't be afraid to reach out to resources like career centers, counseling services, academic advisors, and student organizations. These resources can offer guidance, support, and build your skills to help you succeed in college and beyond.

5. Practice self-care

Finally, don't forget to take care of yourself. It's so important to prioritize your mental and physical health during the transition to college and the years that follow until you get your degree. Make sure to take breaks, prioritize sleep, eat healthy meals, and engage in activities that you enjoy. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, try mindfulness exercises. Putting your well-being first is key to helping you make the most of your college years. 

When to seek professional help 

Feeling homesick can be a normal and expected experience when you're away from home, especially for an extended period of time. You might feel lonely or sad, and miss your family, friends, and familiar surroundings. However, homesickness shouldn't be confused with a mental health issue that requires professional help. While homesickness is temporary and often related to a new environment or change in routine, depression or an anxiety disorder are more long-term mental health conditions that affect your overall well-being. Here’s what to know about depression and anxiety disorders: 

Symptoms of depression 

Depression goes beyond feeling sad for a few days. For a doctor to diagnose depression, you usually need to show symptoms for at least two weeks. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Anger, irritability, agitation, restlessness or frustration
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Reduced appetite and or increased cravings for food 
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

If you or someone you know is in crisis, get help right away. Call 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or find other suicide prevention resources here

Symptoms of an anxiety disorder

Experiencing occasional worry or stress is a normal part of life, especially while in college. However, if you feel it’s starting to impact your day to day functioning, it’s important to get help for anxiety.

There are a few telltale signs that anxiety has become a problem. Anxiety becomes a disorder when it impairs functioning, especially over a period of time. According to SonderMind Chief Medical Officer Doug Newton, MD, MPH, when anxiety becomes problematic, you may experience one (or all) of the three A’s: 

  • Avoidance: You may begin to avoid things that stress you out.
  • Ambivalence: You may ruminate on things and not be able to get past them, which can impact how you think through things and problem solve. 
  • Actions: You may act or behave differently.

Anxiety issues can also lead to a racing heart, shortness of breath, stomach discomfort, and poor sleep. 

If you're experiencing symptoms of depression or an anxiety disorder, it’s important to seek support from a mental health professional so you can get the care you need to feel better.  Here’s how you can connect with a therapist while in college

SonderMind therapists are here for you 

Whether you’re experiencing homesickness or something more, such as anxiety or depression, know that it’s okay to seek help, and that treatments such as talk therapy can be a great tool in helping you see things from a different perspective and feel better. SonderMind is here to help. 

At SonderMind, we do the work for you to help you find a therapist who’s right for you while in college. Just let us know your likes, preferences, and the type of therapist you’re looking for, and we can connect you with a licensed therapist who fits your needs within 48 hours. SonderMind therapists also offer in-person or online therapy sessions, so it’s easier to fit therapy into your busy schedule. 

SonderMind will be here to support you throughout your mental health journey, from providing personalized, evidence-based care to helpful resources to keep you on track with your therapy goals. So if you’re feeling homesick or experiencing a mental health concern, know you’re not alone — we’ve got you.


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