Some time ago I had a talk with one of my co-workers and he was distressed about his teenage children away at college. The problem is that, they were terribly homesick and they called him several times a day. He said he was so distraught for his children away at seperate universities, that he almost brought them home.
After a talk with his pastor, he got the insight to transfer the less assertive, more distressed one to the university where the other one, stronger extroverted and more daring, was enrolled. Well, that happened after some long discussions with the two kids involved, about that alternative. Lucky for him, his kids love and tolerate each other. Now they are sharing an off campus apartment, into their second year.
Not every parent can find such a solution. You, yourself may not find such a cosy fix to your homesickness. Remember, availability of financial resources is a big factor in whatever fix you may want to implement. Honestly though, it is a good idea to let the young people tough it out, and grow into themselves. Isn't college time, a time for them to learn to be on their own and develop personal independence?
It is definitely a time of great change when you go off to the college of your choice. You probably felt a mixture of excitement and nervousness - what would it really be like? would you cope with the work? what would the people be like? After being there a little time, the differences between your expectations and the realities began to become clear - some things may have been better than you expected, some didn't live up to your hopes, and others were just different.
Change can be both invigorating and disorientating. Away from familiar surroundings and support, we can find ourselves feeling quite daunted by tasks we would normally have coped with easily. This post aims to help you make the transition as smoothly as possible, so that you can make the most of your time in college, without all the pain and worry of being away from home alone.
Some common feelings: You may have spent quite some time working towards getting to College. Well you actually did...you are there, but may not have thought very much about what it would be like once you had arrived. It is very common for people to feel things like these:
- a small fish in a large pool; no longer "the best"
- that you aren't as intelligent as others, or that you won't understand the work, or you feel like an "imposter"
- uncertain whether you are here because you want to be here, or because someone else (e.g. parent or teachers) wanted it
- similarly, the choice of course or subject may not be fully yours, or as you expected
- burdened by the weight of others' expectations - for you to be doing well, or having a wonderful time...
- you may feel homesick and find this more difficult than you anticipated
- everyone else may seem to be supremely confident, making friends and doing fine, while you may be feeling quite the opposite!
Know yourself and what you can handle: This is a time when you can experiment and find ways of living that suit you. This can take time. But try not to be pressured by others into doing things you do not want to do, that don't feel right for you, or that you are not yet ready to tackle. Allow yourself to work within what you feel able to do, and don't live a lie: be yourself!
Confront Difficulties: When everything is new, we can waste endless time worrying about things we don't understand or don't know. Don't be afraid to ask; you can save yourself a lot of time and energy by finding out or asking - at the start of the year others will be feeling and doing just the same, so your questions are unlikely to cause any embarrassment. Begin to see these occasions as a challenge rather than as a problem: What can you do to change the situation?
Get/stay Fit: It is much easier to cope with new challenges when we are fit and healthy, have a good diet and adequate sleep. (Yeah, rather difficult especially if you don't even know how to cook or prepare a meal...yes, some of you didn't spend the time to learn how. But you will be ok. Trust me , you will be.
If you have been a keen sports-person, it shouldn't be difficult to find ways of maintaining this. If not, think about taking advantage of the wide range of opportunities in your college community - there is almost certain to be something which suits you.
Managing Pressure: There are times during the term when most people feel pressured. Recognise that this is a common experience, and is not just you! "Listen" to your body and feelings and work with them rather than against them. Here are some other ideas:
- plan ahead to reduce pressure
- use pressure positively - to motivate
- separate others' expectations from your own
- try changing the thoughts "have to" to "choose to"
- put it all into perspective
- reward yourself; give yourself praise for what you have achieved.
- take some time off work every day, Daily meditation and communication with God is such a powerful thing, if you haven't been...start communicating with his today.
- take a whole day off work every week. Not just to hang out, but to go to church and get some more deposits in your blessings bank.
Maintain a balance between time alone and time with others: Friends can be a wonderful support - and a great excuse or distraction! Sort out in advance when you will be able to do things together.
Create a routine/normal pattern for your day/week: Boring as it may sound, having some regular structure to your day/week is likely to help. Depending on your subject and timetable, there can be rather little structure in the student life. "Structure hunger" can be quite debilitating. We each work effectively in different ways and at different times of day, so devise a pattern that works for you - and keep this as your normal routine.
Separate out "work" and "not work" times and spaces: It helps to be clear with yourself when you are, and are not working. Otherwise you can find yourself thinking of all the fun things you're not doing while you are trying to work, and also find it hard to enjoy leisure time as you punish yourself for still having outstanding work. If you have planned out your work and achieved your immediate goals, then allow yourself some fun without any guilt!
Similarly, you may find it helps to separate your room(s) into working and non-working areas, however tiny these areas may be. This can help you to work more effectively when you have decided to and are in your "work-place" where you keep your books etc., and similarly help you to relax when you want to, away from your work.
If you wonder if your college is right for you after all... It is very common for new students to wonder if they have made the right decisions about their choice of university or subject. However, the great majority do find their feet and enjoy their work and time at their current university.
For some, though, it may be that this isn't the right place or subject. If you are seriously wondering about this, it is important that you speak to your tutor before you make any final decision. The Careers Service or Counselling Service at your school, may also be able to help you find the direction that is best for you - whether this is at your current university, or elsewhere.
When you could use some additional support: There is usually a wide range of excellent support available in the different universities, and more that is open to you in the locality of your college community. You don't have to maintain an "I'm OK" image all of the time! If you feel that you need to talk over how you are getting on in college, seek out someone to talk to sooner rather than later:
- Friends or family
- Tutor or Supervisor
- Careers Service
- Chaplain /Pastor/ Minister
- Student Union or Graduate Union
- University Counselling Service
- Use whatever resource is available to you.