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Handling Common Student Stress Experiences: Homesickness August

August is such an exciting month here on campus! We hope your student is jumping right in and embracing all the wonderful things that JMU has to offer. As students get adjusted, be on the lookout for certain stressors that students may experience. Part of the new adventure of moving to college is adjusting to a new "home away from home," complete with a new bed, new schedule, new friends, challenges, and opportunities. Often, however, this adjustment period can lead to feelings of homesickness.

While your student is now technically an adult and on their own, your guidance and comfort is still imperative to your student’s growth and development. Preparing now will help you know what to say when the “venting" call or text pops up on your phone. Remember, sometimes all your student needs to do is get something off their chest. They may not want you to do anything, but listen for those moments in the conversation where you can drop your pearls of wisdom!

"... listen for those moments in the conversation where you can drop your pearls of wisdom!"

Homesickness is about more than just missing home: it's the longing for what is normal and comfortable. For your student, everything is new, and adjusting to a new life away from home and family can be challenging. Feeling homesick is just part of the learning process.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if your student is experiencing homesickness:

  • Know that homesickness is a normal part of change!
  • Acknowledging homesickness helps students begin dealing with new feelings.
  • Exploring the many coffee shops, art galleries, events and functions on campus, in Harrisonburg, and in the Shenandoah Valley can help a student feel at home in their new space.
  • JMU offers many clubs, organizations, intramural sports, volunteer opportunities, cultural events, and outdoor activities, where students can begin lifelong friendships.
  • Creating a space for themselves at school helps fight feelings of homesickness. Ask your student about new experiences and help the conversation stay positive.

Remember to help your student look past their homesickness: remind them of times when they have overcome other challenges and how it led to where they are now!

"Creating a space for themselves at school helps fight feelings of homesickness. Ask your student about new experiences and help the conversation stay positive."

Your student has access to many resources on campus that can help with homesickness! Encourage your student to talk to other students who might have similar feelings - opening up about current experiences can be a great way to start friendships. Students can also talk to their resident advisor (RA). RAs are upper-class students who live in the same Residence Hall with your student: they love connecting with students on campus and helping make healthy transitions! The Student Success Center is also a great place for students to go and speak to a trained counselor in JMU’s Counseling Center. The counselors are great at helping students express what they are feeling and creating success plans.

A major part in getting over homesickness is finding stability. All of our tips are centered on your student becoming more comfortable in their new environment and truly finding a "home away from home."

Most students will express some level of homesickness, however, it is important to listen for signs of something more:

  • Has your student been homesick for more days than not over the last six-week period?
  • Is your student able to do what they need to do (go to class, meetings, eating, exercising, sleeping, etc.)?

If you get the feeling that what your student is sharing with you is more than homesickness, there is help available. Encourage your student to make an appointment at the Counseling Center. There is no weakness or stigma in getting help.

Is your student able to do what they need to do (go to class, meetings, eating, exercising, sleeping, etc.)?

As you and your student talk about their transition to life at JMU, consider planning ahead to relieve future stress points. The Office of Residence Life is excited to be able to offer contracts for the next school year right now, allowing you and your student to have the peace of mind of knowing where they will live next year.

Contact our office today to see if an on campus housing contract for next year is right for your student!
Other common stressors may include: homesickness, initial adjustments to a new academic environment, values exploration, social life adjustments, initial social reflections, becoming familiar with campus, long distance relationships, feeling inadequate, and/or financial adjustments.

Short articles on these and other topics can be found throughout the year here.

We look forward to getting to know your students and are available to help with the transition to JMU. If you have any questions about anything related to residence life, feel free to check out our website at www.jmu.edu/orl, give us a call at (540) 568-HOME, or email us at res-life@jmu.edu.

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