This column was inspired by another advice column from a couple years ago. This year, the “How to IMSA” column is co-authored by Humor editor Mara Adams (‘20) and Opinions editor Grace Yue (‘20). By putting our own twist on an older column, we aim to be more consistent in publishing articles on relevant topics throughout the year. We hope you find our old/new column helpful!
If you’re a sophomore, you’re required to stay on campus for your first two weekends at IMSA. As such, you might be feeling a bit homesick – missing your house, your siblings, your pets, your old school, and your old friends.
On the one hand, you know that coming to IMSA ultimately benefits most students. On the other hand, you’re probably also an emotional wreck at this point, and you don’t know if or when your homesickness will get better.
Here, you’ll learn how to handle this situation from two IMSA homesickness veterans.
DURING THE SCHOOL WEEK by Mara Adams
Even if you go home on weekends, you still have to go five out of seven days per week without your family, friends, or home. Luckily, during the busy school week, there are many ways to stave off homesickness. Here, I’ll lay out various ways to distract yourself and cure your homesickness.
- Get involved. You hear this advice every time anyone mentions homesickness, I know. That’s because it’s true. Keep an eye out for emails or Facebook posts about clubs you might be interested in, from ISP to French Club to the Acronym. Attend the Club Fair and get on the mailing list for any club you have even a passing interest in. You never know what might turn into a lifelong passion, a way to meet new people, or simply a fun way to pass the time.
- Spend time with others. Go to dinner with your classmates, wingmates, or roommate. Many of your upperclassmen would love to get to know their sophomores better. Plus, most sophomores come into IMSA without knowing anyone, so they’re looking for friends just as much as you are. Outside of mealtimes, hang out in the wing commons or in people’s rooms, or invite people to your room. Even if you don’t talk, just the presence of another person can be comforting.
- Set a schedule to call your parents and/or friends. Calling your parents or friends can help you temporarily reconnect with your old home life and remind you that just because you live somewhere else doesn’t mean relationships have to end or deteriorate. But when you’re homesick, it’s easy to call people too much and make adjusting even harder. In order to avoid both ends of the spectrum, it’s easiest to agree on a calling schedule beforehand and then don’t deviate until you’re adjusted. For example, my parents and I agreed to call each other once a day — but no more. I was able to keep them updated while also forcing myself to adjust as quickly as possible.
- Find an easy and fun way to distract yourself. I like to create. Often in my free time, I draw or write. But both of these activities require a lot of effort and leave plenty of room for thoughts to wander, and when I was homesick, doing them let my thoughts wander right back to the fact that I was miserable. Instead, I put these activities off for a while and instead invested my time in reading. Reading was a simple activity that immersed me in another world, enough that I could completely forget about my negative feelings. I read whenever I had a bit of free time and didn’t let myself dwell on my homesickness. Reading may not be your thing, but the point is to find an activity that you can do a lot of that won’t let your thoughts wander to places you don’t want them to go.
- Invest in some earbuds. In the same vein as #4, I would often find myself distracted and missing my family/home as I walked across campus to classes or dinner, when I was folding laundry, or when I was doing any other task that didn’t require all of my attention. My solution was to get some earbuds and play audiobooks or podcasts. They let me distract myself during mindless tasks so my mind didn’t wander, and they kept my mood up.
- Set a commitment goal. If your homesickness is so bad you’re considering dropping out, don’t give up just yet. If you can’t handle thinking about committing to three years at IMSA, don’t. Instead, commit to a semester, a quarter, or just four weeks. No matter how bad you feel, you’ll stick it out for that amount of time because that amount of time is manageable, and then you’ll re-evaluate. By the time the re-evaluation date comes, your homesickness will likely have improved. When I was a sophomore, the thought of staying at IMSA for three years was terrifying. So I didn’t commit for three years. I committed for a month, and then I continued committing, and I’m willing to bet that you’ll continue committing too.
I hope I was able to help your school-week cases of homesickness with these tips. I’m lucky enough to go home often, so I don’t have much experience with weekends. So, for those of you facing long, future weekends at IMSA, veteran weekend-stayer Grace Yue will tell you how to do it.
ON THE WEEKENDS by Grace Yue
Unlike my co-columnist Mara, who’s developed some great ways to manage homesickness during the school week, I always stay weekends at IMSA. So as a sophomore last year, I was at a loss as to what to do on Saturdays and Sundays. My roommate was gone, my hall was nearly empty, and the campus was deserted. I had no one to socialize with, too much homework to do, and too much time all by myself. Even the IRC and IN2 are closed on weekends, so I couldn’t wander the library stacks or work on projects in the Makerspace. It was practically solitary confinement.
One of the best ways to cope with homesickness is, of course, to make new friends at IMSA. Even if your friends don’t stay weekends with you, you can still text or video-call them, which is a great mood-booster when you’re alone on campus.
But friendships take time to build. You’ll make friends at IMSA in the future, but that reassurance won’t make your current homesickness vanish.
So if you want to (or have to) stay at IMSA on weekends, here are some coping mechanisms that I used as a sophomore, and some of which I still use.
- If you want to learn to stay at IMSA on weekends, then stay at IMSA on weekends. While it alleviates your homesickness syndrome for the two or three days you spend at home, in the end it serves as a weekly reminder of what you’re missing when you live at IMSA during the week. Ultimately, figure out a schedule that’s sustainable over the entire year, whether it’s going home once a month or only going home on extended weekends. In order to adjust, you need a schedule that you can adjust to.
- Work in Sodexo during mealtimes. You can’t bring your backpack into the eating area, but you can easily bring your laptop or a notebook. Brunch is open from 11 AM to 1 PM on weekends, and brunch stragglers remain in Sodexo as late as 2 PM. The ambient conversation is good for productivity, and being near other people reduces your chances of having an emotional breakdown. The key is to distract yourself from how homesick you might be at the moment.
- If you get work done best in the main building, then you’ll find it disappointing that A-wing, the IRC, the loft, and IN2 are all closed off. However, the TV pit, the sophomore and junior U-benches, and the DNA hallway atrium are decent workspaces. My personal favorite place is on the balcony above the old caf, outside the Bio offices.
- If you get work done best in your room, open up the blinds. Open the windows, if the weather allows. Assuming your roommate doesn’t stay on weekends, blare music from your laptop as you work. Some people say that music distracts them from doing work – and before coming to IMSA, I was one of those people. But I also relied on background noise to stave off my homesickness, so I just got used to doing homework even with music playing in the background.
- Come up with a generic weekend routine. Following a routine will make you feel less lost and more productive. This routine doesn’t have to be super strict, just designate a typical wake-up time (ideally before noon), time to eat, and time to do academic vs. extracurricular work.
Finally, remember that it will get better. Look at the upperclassmen in your wing. They experienced homesickness when they were sophomores. We, your column writers, experienced homesickness when we were sophomores. And hey – it’ll get better, we promise. You can get used to living away from home. Just call your parents to talk every now and then…and make sure to make friends at IMSA. Socializing is the best cure for homesickness.