It’s been years since I felt the poisonous anvil of homesickness in my gut, over a decade, if I’m being honest. But I can still vividly recall the nearly unbearable weight of it.
As a sophomore in high school, I was lucky enough to experience two weeks of dorm life at Eastern Michigan University on a camp scholarship. Any 16-year-old would be ecstatic to leave the nest of Mama Robin and relocate to the top of Ypsilanti Mountain, where the mighty Eagles reside, right? I thought so.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The first week away was hell. I didn’t know anyone, I wasn’t familiar with the campus, my mom wasn’t there telling me what the next step was and I missed my cat. In short, I was homesick.
Homesickness happens. And as a college student, it’s probably going to happen to you, if it hasn’t already.
But there are ways to give it a swift kick in the pants.
You know that scene in Disney’s “Aladdin” where Genie flicks bad man Jafar miles and miles away from all the good guys, never to be heard of again (until the sequel, that is)? Picture that homesickness is Jafar, and your finger is posed for a solid, Superbowl worthy punt.
There are three ways I can suggest to do this; three things that shaped me up, so I wouldn’t constantly think about shipping out.
First, bring your blankie. Please note that this does not actually mean your 18–year-old deteriorated piece of Winnie the Pooh scrap. This is a metaphor for a cherished photo, favorite book, lucky T-shirt, etc. Really, it can be anything that reminds you of home and provides you that toasty sense of happiness when you see it, read it or wear it.
My “blankie” was an over-sized sketchbook, which I used as a journal. In it, I documented anything I considered eventful, in penned words, penciled pictures and a rainbow of highlighters. For years after, I would reread those events whenever I became “homesick” for those two weeks of camp.
Second, participate. EMU has hundreds of programs, clubs and activities going on at any given time, so join one. Or three.
For me, my time away from the nest was the participation. It was a theatre camp chock full of people I didn’t know and things I’d never done before. I deliberately put myself out there for the challenge, and it was fantastic.
And last, make friends. That cannot be emphasized enough. Friends are the life-saving jungle vine that appears when you’re sinking in a quicksand slump.
A good way to make a friend is smile. Really, it’s that simple. Hasn’t a stranger’s warm, sincere smile ever caught you by pleasant surprise? It feels nice.
If you find smiling at strangers too Beaver Cleaver, perhaps you can just say hi. Alternatives include “Hey,” “Hello” and “Howdy.” People crave connections, so connect.
Ten years ago, I greeted a fellow camper. Last March, I stood up in her wedding. No joke.
I mentioned earlier that my first week at EMU was hell. The second week was one of the best of my life. It changed everything.
And stepping into this lovely green landscape known as college is going to change everything for you, too. Let it. Change is positive.
Just know that the feeling of homesickness won’t last long. Especially if you capitalize on the advice this article has provided. Get of off that uncomfortable cot and experience the next four years of your life.
Because once you get past the hurdle of missing Miss Muffins, you’re going to remember these days forever.
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