A photo of Carter's summer apartment living room. Features a tan brown papasan chair in front of a black tile fireplace. A wooden sign labeled "614" hands above the fireplace.

There’s something so thrilling about the independence college brings. You’ll move in and suddenly you’re the adult who dictates when you need to go to bed and when you need to wake up, what to eat for breakfast and when to do your laundry. The first few weeks are an adjustment for many students. Some people will take to the newfound freedom easier than others – and that’s totally normal!

Many students ease the adjustment by staying in contact with their friends and family back home (wherever that home may be). Some students call home daily. Others have to be coerced. Regardless of how many times you call your parents or how often you go home for break, there’s one thing we’ll all wrestle with at one point or another: homesickness.

Homesickness is often used as a buzzword for the reason students are slow to adjust to their new lives, or the reason we stay in bed on the weekends rather than going out. The surprising thing that people rarely tell you about is that this mythical beast takes a different form for everyone. The students who were more independent from their family, in particular, often feel left out from the typical discussions on missing mom’s cooking or dad’s advice – at least, I did.

It’s difficult to apply terms like “homesickness” and “well-adjusted” to the infinite combinations of events that lead students to Northwestern. For me, I didn’t find that I had a massive yearning to go back home over breaks. I often forgot to call my mom and dad in the whirlwind of my on-campus life. I believed I had taken to living independently as best as I had seen anyone do it! It even made my decision to stay in Evanston over the summer and sublet an apartment with friends an easy one.

My homesickness (if that’s what it’s even called!) was in missing the people who were there to pick up the slack. Some days are more difficult than others and the idea that you don’t have to worry about grocery shopping or cooking your own dinner is a comforting one after, for instance, a rain-soaked commencement you helped to run. Suddenly, financial and emotional independence had a cost. I had been so happy leaving my home behind that I forgot how much easier life can be when you have people on your side 24/7.

So what does that mean for everyone’s adjustment to college? Who’s to say! I don’t have the most typical new-student experience – and I’d even be so bold as to say there is no such thing as a “typical” experience! The best I can do is to encourage students to reach out when they feel alone or need help. If calling your parents or guardians doesn’t fix things, then you have your PA or your friend from Chem 101 or your roommate. For me, it took a rejuvenating shower and a marathon of television with my summer roommates. Your college experience will hopefully be exciting and challenging and endlessly rewarding, but don’t forget that you’re not alone throughout it.

Note:
This blog post was originally written while I was employed by the Office of Undergraduate Admission at Northwestern University. As such, my voice and tone reflect Northwestern’s desired impact, not my own.