I don’t get out much. I mean that in the sense that I was born and raised in the great state of Texas and have only been an eager visitor to a handful of other states. So, after spending most of my life in a small Texas city (El Paso, to be exact), the move I made eight hours across Texas to Austin for college was both exciting and intimidating. True, I was moving in with my aunt and uncle for my time at college, but I was still a long way from home and I was starting a new life on my own. As liberating as that was, within a month or so, I felt it; that empty, hole-in-your-stomach sensation that drags down almost any small-town civilian — homesickness.
We all go through it, those of us who have left the safety of the small, central nest to spread our proverbial wings to get out of the small-towns we grew up in so that we can experience “big city livin’.” However, no matter how excited I was to leave El Paso (because there isn’t much going on there), I sorely missed the friends I’d known since I was five-years-old, I missed my family, and I missed knowing exactly how to get somewhere without the help of google. Homesickness happened, and in order to overcome it I used a few tricks, both that I had heard from other transplants and from my own determination, to make Austin my new home. So, just in-time for my fellow college transplants or those who will be making some type of move in the future, here are a few tips on how to appease and work through feeling homesick.
- Create a routine. Creating a schedule for yourself will help keep you busy and keep your mind off of the whole concept of being lonely. For example, my schedule was running in the morning, breakfast, school, homework, and then I’d wind-down with a movie, some television, a book, or drawing. On Fridays I would drive around and find a bookstore or just a regular shop to poke around and Sunday was always laundry day. Keeping a simple schedule will help to give your days some purpose and will encourage you to make your own plans and figure out what you really like to do.
- Do what you love. This is a follow-up to the previous tip in the sense that doing something you love every day — whether it be drawing, reading, running, watching movies, listening to music — will help keep you happy. Whatever your outlet is, you shouldn’t stop it just because you’re not home or you “don’t have time” due to school. Make time for what you love, because it will often be the activity that will keep you sane, ease your longing for home, and help you find friends in school with similar interests that you can bond over.
- Find some familiarity. Above, I mentioned that I would drive around on Fridays and look for a bookstore or a store to shop around, but I would also look for a place that had good Mexican food. Coming from El Paso and being from a large Hispanic family, Mexican food was a big deal, and I was determined to find a good version of an enchilada and/or taco in the primarily Tex-Mex city of Austin. Because of my vigorous search, I found some really cool eating spots and though I’ve never found a Mexican restaurant comparable to my grandmother’s home-cooking, it felt great to try new foods, be exposed to Austin’s food culture and get familiar with the city.
- Come out of your shell. This is easier said than done, especially those of us who are a little on the shy side. However, it’s not like when you were a kid and your mother could arrange play-dates or you had recess where you could bond with people by hitting them with your lunch-box and demanding them to play with you (my brother’s preferred way of making friends). When you’re in college, you have to be willing to put yourself out there in order to make friends because, you’re a “big-kid” now. When in class, don’t be afraid to make a small joke to your neighbor (my preferred method) and introduce yourself. Even if you two don’t end up hanging out after class, you’ll at least have someone to take notes for you when you miss a day (just remember to offer them the same courtesy). Eventually, it will get easier to converse with strangers and have easy conversations that could turn into a friendship. Remember, most freshman in college are transplants too and are just as eager to make friends as you are.
- Stay in touch. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. Calling your mom, dad, sibling, and/or best friend is a great way to help keep the loneliness at bay. I know it sounds a little lame, calling your mother everyday, but that’s exactly what I did as soon as I started to feel that deep, echoing sadness that my own homesickness brought upon me. As soon as I started calling and talking to my mother, even if I had no real news to report, it made me feel more at ease and not nearly as lonely as I had felt when I was trying to “make it on my own” by calling only every so often. By staying in touch with my family and old friends, I realized I was still connected to them, no matter how many hours or miles away they were. At the end of the day, I knew they were always there and I could always count on them to pick up the phone.
In the end, moving is a big change in life that is both exciting and terrifying. It is an eye-opening experience that will expose you to the world and new people, and it will help you grow and learn about yourself in very important ways. It is a necessity for the growth of every individual and a chance to change for the better. So, even though it won’t be easy and even though homesickness will have you begging for your parents to let you move back in, just know that home will always be there. Your family, friends, and favorite fast food joint won’t be going anywhere, and you can always go back. However, I can almost guarantee that once you’ve had a taste of what it’s like to be in charge of your own life, you won’t be able to go back. At least, not just yet.