Student Voice


June 22, 2024


To-do lists resolve student home sickness quandary

March 23, 2012

Many of us spent the majority of our lives considering “home” as the house we lived in with close family; the place to return to no matter what the day was like.

It was a safe, comfortable place due to its familiarity. However, once we stay at college for the majority of the year, we start to connect with this new home and disconnect with our original home.

While we live at college, life at home goes on and changes. Our families create memories without us and they may treat us differently when we visit; suddenly, college students may find that home no longer feels so homey. While these changes can be difficult and frightening, there are ways to reestablish that at-home feel.

When you go home, do a few physical actions to transform your seemingly visitor status to live-in family member again. The simplest way to do this is by completely unpacking, especially if you are home for more than a weekend.

By reclaiming your bathroom drawer instead of living out of a suitcase, this relocation will immediately feel more permanent and welcoming. Assuming your siblings did not take over your room, make your room feel lived in with favorite items such as photo frames, posters and memorabilia; while it seems pointless to put items on display that you plan to bring back to school, it can make a huge difference. If you did lose your room, do the best you can to make your new area your private space again.

Once you have your space reclaimed and feeling welcoming, work on establishing a routine. An obvious yet nevertheless unsettling realization is that life went on while you were away at college. Your family has their own routines and habits, and if you can work yourself into some of those, you will stop feeling out of place.

While they are at work or school, preoccupy yourself with your own to-do list (go to work, volunteer, do schoolwork, or catch up on a favorite TV show). If you are feeling especially disconnected, do household chores, yard work, or hobbies you did not bring to school—things you can only do at home.

After your full day, when they return home, you are ready to join in their coming-home routine of dinner or a movie and exchange of stories.

With these nightly catch up sessions, take the time to appreciate your family from your new role as a college student. It is natural for your family to treat you differently when you arrive home. Work on combining your old role as an at-home child with your new role as a temporary resident.

The more you talk to your family, the more old bonds with reform and new bonds with strengthen. Hang out with them as a group during their normal routine, but also search for some one-on-one time with each member to help further a connected feeling.

For a touch of familiarity, ask your parents what rules there are now that you are at home again—many will still have expectations, and may even give you a chore or two. While that does not seem ideal, it does help you see that they still view you as their child; this will never change, and the reminder can really help.

After a few days pass and home begins to feel familiar again, make sure that returning to college does not undo all of your hard work. Keeping in touch with your family helps a lot.

Follow their activities through texts, emails, or calls. Furthermore, keep your at-home feeling strong by visiting more often, especially if you only went home on breaks. Additional interactions make a huge difference.

When you return home, keep in mind that it may seem unfamiliar at first; however, you can re-instill a homey feeling by making your physical surroundings more comforting, creating a routine and reforming bonds between yourself and your family members.

It may take some work and getting used to, but feeling at home again will always be worth it. Most importantly, remember: while your house will change over the years, your family will always remain your home.

Jaime Haines is an exuberant puppy-lover and “House” addict and plans to use her psychology degree to encourage activism and well-being through counseling, workshops, speeches, and the written word.