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Missing home: how to cope when you're away from home for the first time

Whether you're taking a gap year, or away at college, feeling homesick is a huge part of leaving home for the first time. Below, hear from Humboldt University Senior Rachel Itza Souza on how hard it was to be away from home, and what she learned from it.   

I’m sure I am not the first or the last first-generation college student who has experienced homesickness. I come from a well-adjusted Hispanic family and am close to my parents and siblings. I decided to go to Humboldt State University to learn how to be independent. Back then, when I made my decision as to where I wanted to go to college, it was easier said than done, and I decided to live 13-15 hours away from home. Had I known at the time that I would be so despondent being so far away from home, I probably would not have attended Humboldt State University.

But, alas! As the saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I am here to tell you as a Xicana first-generation college student that it will be okay! It will hurt. But nothing lasts forever!

My first two months of college were very challenging. I found myself persistently sad, unable to focus, anxious, and “empty.” I had no interest in anything. I refused to believe that something was wrong with me. One desperate morning, I went the Student Health Center on campus as a walk-in and answered some questionnaires the doctor gave me. I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. I went to the Student Health Center hoping for an answer. I just didn’t expect it to be an answer that I had no idea how to deal with. Because I am a first generation college student, I have no family members who have gone through this experience and who can give me advice on this matter. I felt even more alone after realizing I had to find my own solutions to be emotionally stable. 

Finding help was difficult. I tried therapy for three weeks, but did not find it helpful. I would participate in clubs based on my interests, and they would help a little bit; they helped me not to focus directly on my emotions. There are two things I found most helpful for dealing with homesickness. The first was being around certain people: individuals who you instantly get along with and give off good vibes to be around. Eventually, with time and effort from both ends, these same people who make you feel supported, lifted, and appreciative become your real friends. The second was calling my parents every day. I would call my mama or papa after my day was done and chismear (gossip). Most importantly, learning to enjoy your own company is very comforting. <3 Always remember to make time for self-care! Really do treat yourself – no matter how little. 

In time, it became easier to deal with severe depression and anxiety. As you take it day by day, you learn and discover new coping techniques. Listen when I say take it day by day. Because if you wake up in the morning and automatically assume you are going to have a hard day, you provoke your day to be hard. Think of yourself as a robot: you know what you need to do throughout the day, do it, and deal with whatever else comes at you accordingly.

Despite the hardship of homesickness, I am a senior at Humboldt State University and I still get homesick. It’s not as bad as it was before, but I still miss my family. I decided to stay at Humboldt because I looked at my options and realized that I was better off at Humboldt than going back home. If I had gone back home, I would have been at my parents’ house, not in school. I would have wasted money, and probably work a job I did not want. If I could go back in time, I would not chose to be closer to home. Why? Because I love the person I have become from my own experiences. I learned to be independent. 

Adapted from collegeaccessplan.com