My Story of Homesickness & Graduate School

Our first Oklahoma State University football game. 2016

Our first Oklahoma State University football game. 2016

Guest Writer:  Kelly K Olivieri

In the hustle and bustle of moving to a different town—albeit across the country or across town—few people talk about the one thing that will define your move and ultimately yourself: homesickness.

You either get homesick, or you don’t, there is no real middle.

It’s different for everybody; some can still function pretty normally, and then there are those like me for whom it’s a daily struggle.

To the people who say “You only are ______ away from home!” or “It’s not that far!”

I know you’re trying to help but STOP. That makes it worse!

Unfortunately, distance does not matter. I was homesick when I moved five minutes away to go to college four years ago. It’s not so much about the distance; it’s about the change of being away from your family and everything you’ve ever known.

This year I graduated college and followed in my mother’s footsteps of moving away to pursue my graduate degree—9 hours away exactly. Just far enough to where I can’t go home on the weekends and close enough to where people say “it’s not that far.” (Can I get an eye roll for these people?)

To the young lady who is reading this because her mom made her read this article, my mom did the exact same thing.  She thought reading articles would somehow help me feel better.

Most articles suggest doing the same things you loved doing at home—I’m sorry, I can’t eat at my favorite restaurant—mainly because it only exists in my hometown, nor can I watch TV because it will give me too many things to be reminded of home. No matter what I do, that feeling of weight on my chest or a cloud over my head still is there.

I miss my dad and me watching our favorite musicals together, I miss my mom yelling at me to stand up straight, I miss my grandmother making cornbread for dinner, I miss my sorority sisters and friends from college.

My Tips for Dealing With Homesickness

1. The first crucial element is acceptance.

It’s okay to be homesick; it’s okay to miss your friends and family. Just as it’s normal for you to cry when listening to “My Heart Will Go On,” it is normal for you to feel this way too!

The good news is that you don’t have to join a sorority or marching band to make it through—it’s the relationships that come from it that make the difference.

2. Throw yourself into random organizations, clubs, groups, anything that will get you out of your apartment or dorm.

When you put yourself out there and make the effort, relationships with others will happen.

3. This is the hard part—and next crucial element—putting yourself out there when you really do not want to.

The last thing I wanted to do was to make new friends and get out there. All I wanted to do was sit in my apartment eating ice cream and pizza all day crying my eyes out (and believe me, I did). The worst part was that my body was in such shock from the homesickness and change that I couldn’t eat much or sleep for a long period of time. Even today, I’m still slowly regaining my appetite and sleep schedule.

4. Talking about your feelings with your new friends is a good start.

If they are your friends they will be there and can provide great distractions until you feel truly comfortable. Soon enough, strong bonds will be made that will help you through this.

What’s Next?

It doesn’t matter if you are spiritual or not—your faith will definitely be tested during this time, whether it’s faith in yourself or your faith in God.

I find it’s easier to go day-by-day. Think Scarlett O’Hara, one of my favorite sassy movie characters, in Gone with the Wind: “I’ll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day!” Despite her questionable moral choices, she does have a point in focusing on getting through today first.

I’ve thrown myself into multiple jobs, groups, volunteer opportunities, going to the gym, anything to keep me out of my apartment for 8+ hours a day.

Even though I have been away from home for a month now keeping busy, I still am homesick. Some days I don’t think I’ll ever get past this, despite all of my friends and family saying I will. Sometimes not even jamming out to Disney music helps, nor does watching my favorite TV shows or talking to my friends back home.

It’s a Roller Coaster

It’s more of an up and down feeling, with high highs and very low lows. One minute I feel independent and ready to take on anything, then something will trigger that dreaded feeling again. I have to keep Kleenex tissues on me at all times for that very reason. I wish it were consistent, but, unfortunately, it’s easy to pull the wool over people’s eyes by posting pictures on Facebook, funny tweets, and pretty Instagram pictures. No one knows that underneath the posts is a hurting person.

But, despite my homesickness still being there, I have hope in knowing that every week the pain will dull a little more. Everyone will go through and heal at different times, for me at least I know it will take a little longer.

Last Advice

Think of what your mom told you when you broke up with your high school boyfriend that you just knew you’d end up with someday: “Time heals all wounds.”

Just as you moved on from him, you will move on from this. Your mom will still be by your side too, just a FaceTime call away.

To the homesick person reading this—it does get better. It WILL get better. You and I just have to believe it and keep trying.

Guest Writer: Kelly K Olivieri

About Kathleen C Olivieri, PhD

Dr. Olivieri is a communication and presentation expert who has given over 1,000 presentations and written 100+ training manuals, articles and reports. Dr. Olivieri worked in Information Technology Infrastructure before teaching full-time for the College of Business at Mississippi State University. Join the conversation with me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/KathleenCOlivieriBiz/