Looking through a sunny Stanford brochure, it might be hard to imagine that students living on the Farm could miss home.
But, between bursts of midterms and other sources of stress, homesickness can manifest at arbitrary moments. Students can find themselves beset by anxiety while groping for the worn surface of a childhood bed stand that is not there; they may be assailed by pangs of nostalgia while looking at pictures of family and old friends. And despite how contagiously happy everyone can seem to be on the surface, homesickness is not uncommon.
“Homesickness is a completely normal and universal human experience,” said Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) psychologist Naomi Brown. “For most, it is a necessary developmental stage on the way to growing up…most students work through it without any need from CAPS.”
Homesickness cases are rarely reported to counseling services such as CAPS or Vaden Health Center’s Bridge Peer Counseling Center. This can mostly be chalked up to the fact that it is more often a symptom than a root problem. According to Brown, homesickness is a phase of adjustment in which students learn to balance distress, negative stress inherent in confronting a new environment, and eustress, the positive stress that accompanies change and excitement.
“At the Bridge, I’ve never had a call that was specifically concerning homesickness,” said Twain peer health educator Corinne Coates ‘12, who is also a Bridge counselor. “Instead, it really just tends to be something that exacerbates other problems like roommate conflicts and anxiety about grades…sometimes it’s hard for students to throw themselves into Stanford, which ends up making it harder not to be homesick.”
When homesickness it is purely a consequence of adjustment issues, certain demographics within the student body are more likely to experience it. Incoming freshmen might come to mind first; however, smaller subsets of that group, such as international students or students who are similarly far from home, are particularly vulnerable.
“When I first came here, it was really the cultural differences that struck me,” said Eri Gamo ‘15, a Taiwanese student. “The humor, the mannerisms, the social interactions were all alien…adjustment has been the hardest part of Stanford so far, and I think it contributed a lot to how homesick I was in the first few weeks of the quarter.”
This sentiment is even shared by some American students who are not from the West Coast.
“It just felt like twice as much to get used to in that I was bringing a Midwestern mindset to California,” said Minnesota native Alison Matteo ‘15. “It’s not that people weren’t accommodating, but the change in culture was a little jarring.”
Regardless of whether a student is international, domestic, an underclassman or an upperclassman, homesickness eventually remits on its own. While there are many ways for students to help themselves overcome it, some say the best way is to simply to apply oneself to the fullest. Whether it means spending more time with friends or taking up an extracurricular activity, time spent being busy is time not spent dwelling on home.
“Upperclassmen aren’t immune to homesickness, we’ve just gotten better at dealing with it,” said Amira Anuar ‘11. “Just immerse yourself in the Stanford experience and it will become a home away from home; everything will work itself out eventually.”