Home > Uncategorized > The Science Behind Homesickness

The Science Behind Homesickness

After being away from home for over a month and a half, I can safely say I have felt homesick. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been as bad as I expected. I feel like college is full of so many distractions that I don’t have time to miss home all the time. As someone who is extremely close to family and home life, especially with my mom, living a coast away from my California suburb has truly been a transition. This past weekend, my dad and brother came to visit and enjoy GW Parents’ Weekend. Standing outside my dorm saying bye moments ago reminded me of August 28th, the day I bid my parents farewell just seven weeks short ago. A wave of emotions fell over me as they shut the rental car doors and drove off. Swiping into the building and up the elevator, tears began to fall down my face. I had lasted this long, but somehow the feeling of being brand new in a place I didn’t know came back as I walked into my empty dorm.

Thinking about what I would write about this week, I decided to stick with the common theme of college life and our experiences at GW. Feeling homesick on this Sunday evening, I thought about the month that separates me from my trip home. I came upon an interesting article while doing research that indicates that homesickness can actually be prevented. Author Bryner elaborates quotes a psychologist at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, “For over 100 years camps and schools have patted homesick kids on the back, tried to keep them busy and hoped it will go away, but research shows that it’s healthier, and more effective to think about prevention.” The article even goes as far as to mention that specific prescriptions can cure homesickness! Certain factors can actually cause a camper or student to be more inclined to feel homesick when away from home. Reflecting on my own situation, I think about the fact that every summer since age ten I have spent at least two weeks away from home. As miserable as I was during those sleep-away camps, they have essentially prepared me for college.

How are you coping with living away from home and family? If applicable, did your boarding school prepare you? Do you think that homesickness is curable?

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 16, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    I think it is definitely different for each person. There are probably many factors that change the amount of homesickness each person experiences, how close they are with family, struggles within the family, how far away from home,the distractions we have, how often we go home. For me, it seems that I have been at GW for much longer than 7 weeks. The transition is a lot, I live by Seattle so this is far away from home for me too. But the homesickness is not as bad as I expected. Though I am looking forward to going back for Thanksgiving, I really love it here in D.C.
    I think that we will get used to the change of being on our own, but it will be harder for some than others. Coming home will be more exciting, and so will returning to a place that we actually know. Moving here was hard since we didn’t know anyone, but soon it will just be going back and forth between two different lives when we go home. That is what it felt like for me with my parents here this weekend, being in Washington State seemed so long ago, like another life.

  2. October 16, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    My parents also came to visit me this weekend. Looking back on when they dropped me off here 8 weeks ago, I think I was more sad to see them go this time around. I can admit that there have been times where I have been home sick since I have arrived here at the start of term, but that homesickness has never been debilitating!

    That ability to move on and not let homesickness overcome me is a result of two things: first, having been away from home for extended periods of time before and second, that I am comfortable just being me. For the first part, a lot of people I have met here have apparently been away from home before, but there some for whom this is there first extended stay away from where they call home; and I have found that homesickness is more common among people who are in the latter of those two groups. It’s an acclamation thing. In regards to being comfortable in being myself, I think that dampens the feeling of homesickness because it makes me more independent. I prefer to be around people, but I am also comfortable to do things on my own as well. I’m not saying that people who are homesick are not comfortable in who the are, but a certain amount of independence does help with the separation anxiety.

    Homesick is curable in my opinion; and the best cure is time. When I first got here, it was a completely new environment with a new set of rules and freedoms. My room was different, none of high school friends were here, and it was a bit overwhelming. But with time, I got used to the campus, the city, my dorm room and the people around me. I made new friends and life became less stressful because I adapted.

    So, for all those people who are feeling homesick right now, I just want to say that there are plenty of people who are feeling the same way, but if you look around, you might find that you’ve already begun to create a “home away from home” right here at GW.

  3. October 16, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    I completely agree with you ms, camp experience does help a little bit. Plus, we have to take into consideration that for instance, most of our parents were not able to attend summer camp, and college was a completely foreign experience for them. Hence, we can see that there are even college-prep summer programs, so this should be easy. But yes, all of us (and its normal) miss our parents, miss the place where we have spent so much time, miss the place that has seen us grow. However, we should have the control, because with facilitated social networking and technology, we are able to communicate with the people we miss easily. Even though its not the same, we do have a better and say “more fortunate” position than our parents.

    Now, the scientific aspect of homesick is very questionable. I respect those arguments. but my opinion is that we have potential control over that feeling, with experience (summer camps, etc) we can control our feelings. Common sense usually also helps, spending time wisely and being active too. It is common to overthink, but now that we are older and wiser than in summer camps, we should be able to overcome any problems that appear in our way. We are not the first ones going through this nor the last ones.

  4. October 17, 2011 at 1:46 am

    I really hope that homesickness is curable, but I’m not convinced that any of the prevention tips in the article would work. A lot of us had gotten used to the idea of going to GW and visited campus, but is living here really the same thing?

    I totally agree with kingscrown7 that it’s an acclimation thing and totally different for different people. Those of you who are used to seasons and cold weather probably aren’t shocked as I am when you step outside and it’s fifty degrees, and you’re probably not as amused by squirrels as I am, either (we don’t have those at home). Aletorio also makes a really good point- we have more access to technology and communication than any college bound generation before us. Honestly though, my friends and I on the mainland hate skyping with people from home because it reminds us even more of what we left. Hopefully with time and occasional visits, we can reconcile what we left with all that we’ve gained here and the homesickness will fade.

    Of course, I was talking to an Army colonel from my home state yesterday who left in 1985. “I’ve lived in amazing places, and accomplished more than I could have ever imagined,” he said, “but I still miss home every day.”

  5. October 17, 2011 at 3:22 am

    I’ve started to feel very homesick, since i’ve been here, and I have found that the best cure for it is to call home once every week. It really helps to talk with your family and catch up often. And as with everything time is the best remedy. It’ll eventually go away. One thing that is important is to make sure that feeling homesick doesn’t keep you from going out and having a good time. Because if you do then coming here and feeling homesick will all be for nothing. Laughing with your friends and having a good time will do a lot to make your homesickness go away.

  6. October 17, 2011 at 9:59 am

    That’s interesting that you would still feel homesick after having been away from home for two weeks each summer. For seven summers I spent six weeks away from home at camp about 3 hours away from where I lived. I know that each summer, the instant i arrived i was whisked away into doing this o that to get my mind off of home and family, and I believe that worked for most people there too. I can’t say i ever remember feeling homesick then, but I know I definitely do not now. It’s not that I particularly enjoy GW, I just don’t really miss home either. I also went to a semi-boarding school for the last three years where I was an hour away from home and had the option to go home on weekends if I chose. Instead of homesickness, I feel some sort of shame for leaving my family and being so far away from them as I was a major part of my parents’ lives. Even before the school year I remember feeling some apprehension about being so far away, and I still feel bad that I’ve distanced myself so far from my parents, but I don’t really miss being home.

    As to being curable, I think nearly everyone who gets homesickness eventually gets over it. You were eventually going to move out and get a job no matter where you went to college, so the separation between the bird and the nest was eventual.

  7. October 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    I just came back from home this morning, and it was wonderful. I feel like going home after months of being away is amazingly refreshing. I get home sick a lot, miss my parents, but i guess i cope by making phonecalls and just simply staying everyway I can. Since my parents could not make it home this weekend for parents weekend, I decided to go home and see them instead. I think one gets completely cured of home sickness through time. One just starts to get use to the environment they live in and soon that environments slowly adapts to home. As for me home is where the heart is, and my heart lies in boston. Yes, with this said I get home sick but eventually things will work out and I’ll adapt. Time is the only cure.

  8. October 20, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    I found this post particularly interesting as one of my roommates has recently been telling about an article her mom found on a similar subject. For a few weeks now, she’s been explaining how homesickness leads to other medical issues, specifically stress, moodiness, fatigue, and, of course, depression. Now, I have to say, even though I myself am quite far from my home in a densely wooded suburb of Seattle, I’ve yet to really experience homesickness on the scale that people have been expressing. While I was very close with certain members of my family and a handful of very good friends, I more than anything am simply excited to go see them during Thanksgiving than pining away for them until November. However, I do find I miss home most when I’m having a bad day or even sometimes when I’m just bored. Keeping distracted certainly helps an so does keeping active. I don’t know exactly what it is– the distraction, the accomplishment of a good time or a long distance, or simply the endorphins– but nothing has helped me turn my day around like a really good run since I’ve been here. I found that it actually helps even more than going out with friends because sometimes that can cause me to reminisce and just miss home more. So I guess my number one tip for keeping positive would be to lace up some sneakers and go lap the Mall. Other than that, just remember, this is your life now and over time, you’re going to come to identify with it the way you did with the one you had in high school so just let yourself settle.

  9. October 23, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Same here, I can’t wait to go back to my home town, the small, wonderful town of New York City. I left my baby there (acoustic guitar) and I just might decide to bring it to DC. Hmm… I might decide to bring that 40 watt tube amp too…

    I can’t believe that I made it this long in this ____hole called Thurston. Damn…

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