“Homesickness is a form of stress. Any time when you move to a new environment where a lot is expected of you and you don’t know how it works, that is going to create stress.”
For freshman Courtenay, Wyview Park is just not the same as her Southern California home. What is now “home” is one of the many jarring changes that have inspired homesickness for her. “It’s different to come home and not have my mom there to talk to right away,” Cook said. “I really miss our Sunday dinners – that was our real family time.” Cook’s family is proud of her for leaving home, however, and Cook plans to work hard not to let them down, she said. She manages the feeling of homesickness by keeping herself busy with school and work.
Tyler Pedersen, a clinical professor and licensed psychologist, is part of BYU Counseling and Psychological Services, which offers students personal counseling. “Homesickness is a form of stress,” he said. “Any time when you move to a new environment where a lot is expected of you and you don’t know how it works, that is going to create stress.”
BYU Counseling and Psychological Services offers various services for new students, including an information sheet with advice for dealing with homesickness. “In a way, homesickness is a positive emotion in that it implies that there is a place that you find familiar and comforting,” the information sheet states.
In contrast, homesickness makes a person feel sad and vulnerable, making small mishaps seem like tragedies. In a new, unfamiliar place, activities such as choosing groceries, managing a full college load, and making new friends, can become overwhelming. Freshman students are not the only ones experiencing homesickness; some transfer students miss home as well.
Brigitte Dean, a junior transfer student and Middle Eastern studies major from Texas, lived at home for the first two years of college. Consequently, coming to BYU was an adjustment. Dean describes her homesickness as a longing for what she was used to at home, including hugs from her brothers and the long talks with one of her sisters.
She has been able to find comfort in knowing that BYU is where she is supposed to attend college. “There is such a great spiritual aspect to coming here,” Dean said. “It gives a reassurance that everything will be fine and you can always turn to Him [Heavenly Father] when you are missing your family.”
Everyone experiences homesickness in different levels and forms. Pedersen said homesickness could be compared, on a lower scale, to moving to a new country and adjusting to the culture. For most new students it is natural to feel homesick and there is not a specific time frame for it to stop, Petersen added. Some students may feel homesick on-and-off for a few months, but if the person is able to handle responsibilities, it is not likely a big problem.
It is normal for new students to call home often but they should be careful to not use family as the only form of moral support or social support, he said. The quality and type of calls home are very important; it is better for them to be about the new things learned and experienced.
In the end, new students will learn valuable experience by being away from home, including self-sufficiency, Cook said. “It’s going to teach me that I can survive without being with my family 24/7.”
Dr. Tyler Pedersen is the Associate Director of Student Development Series at BYU's Counseling and Career Center.