If you’ve never been away from home before, your first semester away at college can be a real combination of excitement and dread. The first few days will be a rush as you find out where you have to go and what you have to do, but once you have begun to settle in, homesickness and insecurity can hit. This will pass, hopefully in a matter of days, if you follow some
basic coping methods.
Talk it out
The best way to cope with being away from home is to share your feelings with other people. Talk to your roommate and classmates about being homesick; they may well be having similar problems. If you try to pretend everything is fine, you won’t get the support that you need and your feelings could start to fester. In the circumstances that you really haven’t got anyone to whom you feel comfortable talking, and you are beginning to feel that you can’t handle being away from home, then it is worth arranging to see a counsellor or tutor. Sometimes, the very effort of talking will be enough; if not, the counsellor should have some recommended coping mechanisms.
Continue to make friends
Even if you have made a number of friends in your first week and you think that is enough, continue to spread your wings. It is easy to stick to the first group of people you come across, when there may be much more suitable friends out there for you. In addition, your initial friends may well move on to other people and you don’t want to be left on your own. Participate in groups and clubs and try some new activities. You will meet a number of different people and may even discover a new hobby. The more people with whom you mix, the less likely you are to have time to sit around moping because you are homesick, even if you do feel the occasional twinge.
Look after your health
You’re probably used to your parents ensuring that your diet is at least reasonably healthy. Once you’re at college, you will need to start paying attention to what you eat, avoiding too much fried foods, cream and cheese. If you can’t find enough healthy options in your college canteen, then consider trying elsewhere some of the time, or even try cooking for yourself if you have the facilities. Watch what you drink too; soft drinks and alcohol can also provide excess calories and don’t do your teeth much good. Finally, try and get some regular exercise, even if it is only a long walk once a day or so. However, with all the sports facilities you should have at your fingertips, you can probably find something more challenging.
Watch your finances
Along with the freedom of being away from home and being away from your parents, you will probably find that your money doesn’t go as far as you would like it to. There will be all sorts of opportunities to do fun things and, even though many will be discounted, having a great social life can still work out very expensive. Don’t end up in debt half way through your first term. If you really can’t cut down on your spending, then look for a job – don’t just expect your parents to cover you. Ending up without any money isn’t going to improve your first semester at college, especially if you end up at the point that you have to consider leaving.
Call home when you need to
When you’re feeling insecure, the first thing you will want to do is call home. It probably isn’t the best idea to call home more than a couple of times a week; you will just miss home even more and you could end up spending time on the phone when you should be making new friends. However, knowing that you have the support of your friends and family back home will help you when you are feeling particularly low; they will hopefully be able to offer you some advice on the best ways to cope too. Once you’ve been at college for a few weeks and have really settled in, you may find that you’re enjoying yourself so much you don’t even think about calling home – but make sure you continue to let people know that you’re well.
Don’t panic about expectations
The difference between high school and college studying is that you will be expected to learn to study alone far more than you were at high school. You will need to hone your research skills and you may be very apprehensive about this to begin with, especially when it comes to your first assignments and exams. However, no-one will expect you to do everything perfectly the first time, so there’s no need to panic. The college will probably provide you with extra classes to help you prepare for course work and there will be tutors on hand to help you if you struggle. Just be prepared to put the time in and ask for help when you need it.
Your first semester at college will probably be your most memorable. It may even be life-changing. It can also be very stressful. Be prepared to embrace everything that is thrown at you and you will be just fine.