The Truth About Your First Semester in College

I won’t sugar coat it: First semester sucks. But you will get through it.

During my first semester in college, every day I looked forward to one thing: going to bed. I was only happy when I was asleep, dreaming about my pre-college life. I was homesick, like thousands of students every year. But I thought I was the only one.

Illustration by Mary Long//STOCK.ADOBE.COM

I knew attending the University of Pennsylvania—nine hours from home, where I didn’t know anyone—wouldn’t be easy. But I assumed I’d adjust. In high school, I was the outgoing girl who said “hi” to six people during every five-minute class change. I’d make friends easily.

I was wrong. In college, you don’t have the same schedule or courses as your roommates. Proximity doesn’t equal friendship like it did before. But when you eat by yourself while your peers dine at packed tables, it seems like everyone else has friends. So you feel alone. And you think it’s your fault.

Schools want to support students struggling to adjust. Counseling services, academic advisors, RAs, and faculty members are available for advice. “You never know who’s going to help,” says Craig Bennett, director of Miami’s Student Success Center. In fact, your peers can help the most. At Miami, students dealing with homesickness are first put into group therapy. In the group setting, students “start to under-stand that they’re not alone [and] they can learn strategies others [use] to get through the issues,” says John Ward, Ph.D., Miami’s student counseling services director.

Over winter break, when I confessed to my high school friends my struggles, I re-ceived a resounding “me too.” I was shocked. But knowing that my feelings were normal, and I would deal with them even at a local college, provided the wake-up call I needed to seek help. If you experience long, intense homesickness at college, please know it’s not just you and there are resources available. And, I promise, things get better.

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