It’s OK to feel homesick as a college student

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The Daily Illini file photo

La Casa Cultural Latina, Native American House, Asian American Cultural Center and Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center line Nevada Street in Urbana. La Casa is one of the cultural houses hosting the Lunch on Us program.

By Katie Powers, buzz editor

For plenty of students, the beginning of their first semester at Illinois can come with a challenging transition that includes a desire to return home. If you find yourself with this familiar pang in your stomach or a lump in your throat during the first weeks of the semester, remember you aren’t alone. There are so many students on campus who are struggling with being so far away from home for the first time.

Don’t be afraid to open up to the people around you. If you’re comfortable with, talk to your roommates and floormates and let them know you’re struggling. Since they’re equipped with that knowledge, you might be able to offer you some extra support. You might even find out they are going through something similar. Your resident assistants and academic advisers can also provide insight and reminders that this experience is all too common.

But the international experience is unique from the experience of a domestic student; you might be thousands of miles away from home, dealing with a long time difference in communicating with friends and family or facing the stress and excitement of adapting to a new culture. You might find that homesickness impacts you in a different way than some of your peers and that your transition is happening at a different pace. So as you navigate international student life at the University, be patient with yourself. It takes time for a place to feel like home so it’s OK if not everything falls into place right away. Fortunately, the University offers resources that might make the transition a little bit easier.

A valuable resource for struggling with homesickness is the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations, which offers a wide selection of programs throughout the academic year specifically for international students to adjust to life on campus and to learn about the campus community. The GLOBE program offers international students an opportunity to connect with domestic students and share aspects of their cultures with one another and to build genuine friendships doing so. The OIIR also frequently partners with programs such as the Asian American Cultural House, New Student Programs and University Housing for dinners, lecture events and outings intended for cultural awareness and connection. They also offer trips and programs during school breaks for students who might not be able to travel home.

But remember: If homesickness is interfering with your day-to-day life and preventing you from being successful academically and socially long after the initial excitement of move-in, it may be time to seek help. The Counseling Center offers mental health services to all University students including programs specific to the experience of international students. These include Cultural Transition and Adaptation programs and the Interconnect Dinner and Dialogue series, hosted in partnership with the ISSS, OIIR, Asian American Cultural Center and Women’s Resources Center.

Finally, don’t forget to take the time to keep up with your friends and family at home. Frequent phone calls and Skype sessions are vital for maintaining those relationships and keeping you connected with your roots.

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