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Help. Daughter homesick.

Kenneth1960Kenneth1960 Posts: 49Registered User Junior Member
edited March 2013 in Parents Forum
My daughter is finishing up her first semester at a top school - the one that was her first choice. The problem is that she's miserable. She got into 2 singing groups and some other performance stuff, but chose a roommate that didn't work out. She moved, but now she says that she feels isolated and that she has no friends. We get weepy phone calls regularly and these calls break my heart. Semester off? Year off? Transfer? Tough it out? If she transfers, it will probably be to a lesser school. Should she look at some of the schools that she turned down as possible transfer schools? Should I stay out of this and let her solve it?

My freshman experience was miserable until it became awesome near the end of my second semester. Any advice?
Post edited by Kenneth1960 on
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Replies to: Help. Daughter homesick.

  • rockvillemomrockvillemom Posts: 5,233Registered User Senior Member
    Hi, I'm sure this is a very difficult situation for you. It's so hard when our kids are distraught. I would suggest she return for the spring semester and continue to join clubs and participate in activities that she enjoys, and the friendships will develop over time.

    I don't see what transferring accomplishes. If she transfers to a lesser school, she will still be in an environment where she has to start from square one and meet people and make friends. She's better off staying at the top school that was her first choice.

    I think sometimes we all forget that developing friendships takes time. Kids leave a circle of hs friends that they may have known for years, and are upset when they don't immediately have the same solid group of friends at college after a few weeks.

    Be her sympathetic shoulder but also encourage her to enjoy the myriad of activities I'm sure her college offers. The more involved she is, the less time she will have to feel isolated and lonely. I'll bet she will be happier in the spring.
  • Kenneth1960Kenneth1960 Posts: 49Registered User Junior Member
    Thanks. That's kind of where our heads are. I just don't want her to do anything she'll regret later.
  • MyLBMyLB Posts: 1,102Registered User Senior Member
    I'm sorry. That must be really hard on you. She really has to finish up this semester, right? And it really makes sense to go ahead and stick it out second semester. You also need to try to separate how much of her unhappiness is related to this particular school and how much is just homesickness she would have experienced anywhere. Does she think she'd be happier somewhere else? Does she talk about any schools in particular?

    I really think probability is she'll feel better in the spring--weather improving, maybe feeling a little more comfortable with her surroundings, maybe she'll have found a group to hang with. I'd let her *explore* transferring but I wouldn't push her to do it. I've heard from lots of people (more students than parents) that if you can get them to go back for sophomore year, most of the homesickness is gone and they tend to finish up at the school.

    I'd also remind her how very little is left of this semester, and how extraordinarily stressful her first time through exams might be. The delightful thing is they do end, and then she can come home and have a restorative vacation. A fresh start with a new set of classes might be helpful to her.

    Hang in there. I know it's hard on mom and dad.
  • bethievtbethievt Posts: 6,700Registered User Senior Member
    It wouldn't hurt for your D to go to the student counseling center. A little onsite support might be good.
  • Artsue40Artsue40 Posts: 23Registered User New Member
    I was homesick for all four years of college, but my other alternative was to commute two hours each way to a college in the city. I got an excellent education , and yes there wasn't a tear in my eye on graduation day.

    My husband went to a government academy for four years and hated every minute of it, but he ended up shipping out for 22 years,twelve of which as master of a 950 ft ship. Both of us knew what we wanted in the end, and we endured what we had to to get there.

    I hope my son doesn't feel that way when he goes to college, and I am sure he will miss living close to the water, but the colleges here do not offer a decent education for what he wants to major in-so sometimes there's the trade off -
  • intparentintparent Posts: 12,702Registered User Senior Member
    Did she move to a single? My D also moved at the end of her first semester; got a better roommate (but almost anyone would have been better, in D's opinion). But her new roommate wasn't a best buddy, that is for sure. But perfectly fine. I would think if your D is in a single, that would be isolating. No suggestions except moving again if that is the case...

    I would encourage her to go back. If she is not sure who she is going to live with next year, suggest that she look into some "theme housing" (international house, etc.) that aligns with her interest if possible. Even if she does not have buddies when she moves in, that will give her something in common with the others in her housing.

    Joining another club might be a good idea. Also, as she gets further into her major (whatever it is), her class size will likely go down and she will be in class with the same people pretty regularly. That can be a source of friends starting soph/junior year.

    I can't tell from your post if she is talking about not going back and/or transferring. Has she suggested this? If she hasn't, maybe she is just venting to you... sometimes that is what parents are for.
  • bethievtbethievt Posts: 6,700Registered User Senior Member
    I have friends whose D was so anxious and unhappy her first semester that she had to withdraw. She took some gap time and went back to a different school and is doing fine. She was on the young side and went to an OOS U where so many students already had a friendship network and she didn't. I have another friend whose son has withdrawn twice from his OOS U, once with major financial consequences. Some kids need support.
  • AmicaMomAmicaMom Posts: 152Registered User Junior Member
    I've posted this story before. My DD2 was terrifically homesick the first semester, to the point that she actually applied to transfer to the state flagship 50 blocks from our house. She had the same concerns - everyone else seemed to be making friends, etc. But by the time the year ended she was in love with her school, and didn't transfer, although she was accepted at the U and program. She didn't come home for the summer after sophomore year either - instead stayed in the city and worked for the organization where she had work-study during the school year.

    She's a junior now, doing a semester in Paris, and although she loves it, is anxious to get back to her college.

    She acknowledged that the advice we gave her about getting involved in volunteer projects and other activities where you get to know other students in a natural way was helpful.
  • ordinarylivesordinarylives Posts: 2,118Registered User Senior Member
    There are so many students who feel alone and disconnected. The idea that "most" freshman are having a great time is sugar-coated at best. My D did not have a good freshman year, socially, until around spring break. It just takes time, and sadly, there's little you can say or do that will reduce the amount of time it takes. Be encouraging. And, yes, encourage D to go see a counselor at student health. THey see SO MUCH of this kind of thing. They'll know what to do and say. And, yes, if possible, try to get back into a roommate situation.
  • compmomcompmom Posts: 4,158Registered User Senior Member
    This situation is, as you have gathered, very common. I remember so many freshmen who wanted to go home at this time of the year, in my daughter's dorm.

    How far from home is your daughter's school? It might help if you visit, if you can. Weekend can be especially hard, freshman year. I think that contact with family and old friends can help with the transition, as long as those contacts don't interfere with making new connections. That is a tricky balance.

    The counseling center is a good idea. Some schools have groups for kids who are lonely: don't know if that would appeal or not. Extracurriculars and classes and dorm life all provide opportunities to meet people, but the progress can be very slow. As you said, by the end of the term, things may be dramatically better.

    Also, if this is a depression rather than homesickness, or a blend of the two, some do take antidepressants to get over the hump, but that is a decision that requires a lot of exploring and thought. I am certainly not suggesting that every kid who is homesick should take meds!
  • GladGradDadGladGradDad Posts: 2,794Registered User Senior Member
    Semester off? Year off? Transfer? Tough it out?
    The answer is - tough it out.

    She made the decision to attend there and that decision requires a reasonable commitment. It's not reasonable to quit after one semester over something like this.

    She knew she was going somewhere away from home, where she didn't know anyone (I assume), and where the environment is completely different than she was used to. Anyplace she goes will be different than what she was used to in HS. Actually, even if she came home it'd be different than she was used to in HS because (I assume) many of her friends are off to college elsewhere, she won't be seeing them in HS class anymore, she'll have some interaction with the parents issues due to her considering herself independent and you not considering her than when she's at home, etc.

    Going to another college likely won't solve the friend issue. Most likely the college she's attending has thousands of other people there with a surprising amount in common with her - same age group, all top students in order to get admitted, all decided on this particular college.

    She needs to give it more time and make herself be open to meeting new people. She can't wallow in misery or hibernate in her room if she wants to meet new people. If she smiles at and says 'Hi' to some people she'll make some friends. In addition to the clubs, etc. maybe she can ask a classmate if they'd like to study together, just engage in some conversation with someone sitting next to her in class or the dining hall or library, etc. She might even want to pursue an on-campus job for next semester if any are available to her - they can be another way to be engaged on campus and meet more people.

    She also needs to know that she's not alone in feeling like this - it's a common thing that happens to many people. There are people she walks right by on the way to class that feel the same way as her. People usually get past it though by doing some of what I mentioned here and giving it some time.

    So while I chose 'tough it out' what she should really do is make she she's open, friendly, and somewhat pro-active in meeting people. She can't just sit back and wait for it to happen 'to' her.
  • teachandmomteachandmom Posts: 1,238Registered User Senior Member
    I think that most kids do not realize that there are different kinds of friendships, and college is the start of adult friendships. If your D is like most, she went to elementary school and began friendships largely due to the efforts of parents making "play-dates", organizing events, school involvement, etc. She probably stayed friends with many of those kids right through middle school. Met some more kids in middle school and stuck with those friends through high school. Those were friendships largely due to convenience. She went to college probably expecting the same ease in friendships, but it isn't the same. Please encourage your D to give it more time, open up a bit to people she sings with, has class with, etc. If she hasn't had a roommate, she will probably get a new one this coming semester, so that will be someone worried, lonely, and hoping for a quick friendship. Your D may like that person, or may not.
    You are in a position now to help your D face adult life. College ends, and unless she returns home, will probably need to move somewhere new for a job, right? Another time to make friends. Then, who knows, grad school at some point, or another new job...again, another move and time to work at meeting friends again. The truth is that after the long time of childhood and high school, the rest of life can hold a lot of moves and different friends. Then, you marry, have kids, and begin new friendships with other parents, etc. Help your D learn this important adult skill now, so that she is able to adjust to all the other friendship challenging times she will encounter in life!
  • blossomblossom Posts: 4,209Registered User Senior Member
    OP- hugs. Not easy.

    One suggestion (from experience)- try to make yourself less available. Back in the day, we called our parents once a week. Long distance was expensive, there was generally one phone per floor so it wasn't always available, and I remember having a set time to call my folks every Sunday. I think that system was better than the current "I can skype or text or call 15 times a day every time I'm feeling blue" that so many Freshman seem to be in.

    I have a neighbor whose Freshman is terribly homesick, and must phone LITERALLY 20 times a day. I told her mom, "how does she manage to get any studying done? You are always on the phone". The mom of course was irate at my suggestion that she was somehow feeding or enabling the loneliness-- but it struck a chord nonetheless. I asked, "how often did you talk to your mom when you were in college" and of course the answer- "once a week except in an emergency or when we had to coordinate who was picking me up at the bus after finals".

    Try to encourage her to spend the time she's communicating with you "being available"- whether that's sitting with a cup of coffee in a student lounge striking up a conversation with another student, or checking out a couple of volunteer opportunities, or just forcing herself to sit with people she doesn't know at lunch. She can phone you at a set time to update you from her dorm room- but not in "real time" when she should be talking to real people and making real eye contact, not plugged into her phone.

    Xmas is coming. Surely some organization on campus is looking for clowns to visit a pediatric ward in the local hospital or collect toys for the homeless or bake gingerbread at a local nursing home? So many easy ways (i.e. show up once and never go back if she doesn't enjoy the experience) but it will get her interacting with real people who she might actually enjoy.

    Hugs. Not easy when the kids call him in tears.
  • M's MomM's Mom Posts: 4,562Registered User Senior Member
    Apart from visiting the student counseling center (where they see many homesick first semester freshman), you might suggest a few coping strategies:

    1) Remind her to make sure she is sleeping enough every night. If she needs earplugs and eye-shades to make it happen, those are cheap sleep aids. Lack of sleep can account for a lot of depression, lack of concentration, low energy, etc...

    2) Remind her to get regular daily exercise - sign up for a yoga or dance class, join an inter mural sports team, work out at the gym daily - whatever it is, she needs to make sure she's keeping strong and fit. And the endorphins will help her mood.

    3) Remind her to eat well - heavy, starchy, greasy food isn't going to help her to feel good. Every freshman event seems to include sugar, fat or starch and often all three. If she's eating well, she'll feel better.

    The suggestions others have offered are good one - but social interactions can be hard to initiate. Taking good care of yourself shouldn't be.
  • GottagoworkoutGottagoworkout Posts: 64Registered User New Member
    Lesser school? What does that mean?
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