Homesickness is an emotional state that can affect your nerves, sleep, concentration, appetite and general health. It is a real manifestation of feeling ill and anxious. It usually occurs when you are sad about being away from your family, siblings, or any environment in which you felt comforted and from which you have been separated. College freshmen, immigrants, soldiers serving overseas, and children who are sent to summer camps can all fall victim to homesickness.
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According to Reslife.net, an online resource for staff working in college and university residences, the first year of college can be very difficult for some students. Freshmen often go through what can only be described as a mourning period. They often feel a deep sadness at leaving behind childhood friends and family. Sometimes students feel homesick immediately and get over it quickly. Others experience it later, after events around them have settled down.
More than 300,000 troops are serving overseas and most of them are probably feeling homesick. To offset their sadness about leaving behind families, you can send soldiers cards, emails or letters. Try to stay upbeat in your communication with them and let them know that what they are doing is remarkable and valuable (see Resources).
Immigrants are another group of people who can feel extremely estranged from their new surroundings. A study published in June 2007 through The Bob Shapell School of Social Work at Tel Aviv University found that immigrants can suffer from extreme psychological disorders from homesickness. Discrimination against immigrants in their new country makes them feel worse. The study suggested that social programs can help immigrants transition to their new homes and that psychological assistance can help decrease the feelings of estrangement.
According to Phillips Exeter Academy psychologist Dr. Christopher Thurber, a child sent away to summer camp almost always feels homesick at some time during his stay. Parents can help alleviate some of this by bolstering their child's independence throughout the school year in preparation for the time when she leaves home. Sending cards and care packages from home are also good ideas.
Home relationships and ties are very important and real. The best thing to do if you are experiencing home sickness is to acknowledge it and face it. When you recognize and honor this feeling, it is much easier to seek out help for it. If you are a college student, find a counselor at your school who can help; if you are a soldier try to be comforted by letters from home; if an immigrant, seek out community support, and if you are a parent of a homesick camper, send your child pictures or care packages from home that will assure your child that you have not abandoned him.