Home Away From Home
Coping with college homesickness, as an out-of-state college student.
by Anna Sophia Wolner
I am a very proud Minnesotan—I love my home state, my family, my friends, and the culture of where I’m from.
So, this prompts many people to ask me “why did you choose to move away for school if you love home so much?”
It’s not a simple question to answer, but I’ve given great consideration to my response.
I took a gap year between high school and college, to gain life experience and weigh my options for post-secondary education more carefully, apart from the influence of friends, family, and high school. I decided to travel and volunteer during this year. When I made the decision to attend school in Fall of 2014, I choose Colorado Mountain College—a place bursting with promise of adventure and a great educational experience.
I knew CMC was far away from home, but I also knew that I needed to establish my identity apart from that which was familiar to me. However, at a certain point I knew I needed to expand my horizons—and I knew that it would be difficult.
Of course I get homesick, but it’s okay!
Missing home isn’t a constant, chronic pain—it comes in waves and pangs, overcoming you when you’re feeling especially overwhelmed or vulnerable, sometimes just hitting you when you’re reminded of home in some small way.
But it is okay to feel this way! It reminds me every single day of how fortunate I am to have something to miss so dearly, something that makes my heart ache with a sweet, nostalgic pain.
Some things that have helped me cope with being far from home include:
Create a routine—I find comfort in my own familiar schedule, this could mean eating similar foods every day at similar times, making to-do lists, mapping out my day so I can clear my head of unnecessary clutter, this helps me curb my anxiety and college homesickness.
Socialize—it’s easy, when you’re feeling blue, to want to hide from others and social situations. However, I have found that interacting with others brings me out of my funk, tethering me to the present moment and thus eradicating my homesickness through the lovely distraction of company.
Choose to be positive—okay, so no one is a bright-shiny-happy bundle of sunshine all the time, but we can make the choice to focus on the good imbued in every situation. For instance, rather than stewing about how unlike home this place is, or how sad I am to not be around my family, I choose to be grateful that I have such lovely people in my life, even though they’re physically far from me, that I am able to travel far away to a new place—many people are not so fortunate. It is a choice to be grateful, and one that can improve our reflections on our current situations.
Breathe—seems easy enough, right? Of course, we breathe all day long, but being conscious about it can help to center us in the moment and make the day or night seem more manageable. Sometimes a deep breath, around 10 seconds in and out, has the power to realign our bodies and minds, relieving all kinds of stress and anxiety wrapped up in our day.
So, yes, sometimes I get homesick, but I never question my choice to come out to the mountains, over 1,000 miles away from home, because:
It broadened my perspective on the world—introducing me to a wide variety of new people, places, and culture.
It helped me to develop my own identity—I grew into myself away from the established comfortability of home, I learned how to be independent and brave.
I am more engaged with the world, finding commonalities with new people and finding a place in the community.
As a student, admitting my own naiveté and wide-eyed nature was therapeutic and refreshing, it kept me an engaged student and, as a result, I absorbed more information.
So when people ask me why, if I love my home-state of Minnesota so dearly, why would I move out here? To a tiny mountain town in the middle of the Rockies?
Well, sometimes the experiences in life that reap the greatest rewards are often equally difficult and require hard work and adjustment. I would never want to live a life where I never faced challenges, because it is the hardships we overcome that show us what we are made of.
Attending Colorado Mountain College as an out-of-state student has taught me a great deal about myself, making the choice to go out, on my own, and explore a new place, a new life, and a new identity—far away from home.
Being homesick is not the end of the world, it is the bittersweet reminder that home is a feeling you carry with you—that’s why it hurts your heart so much—it’s in there, and you have the power to take that feeling and use it to season every new experience with the culmination of what your home has made you, and how you shape who you become.