Friday, September 14, 2012

Make PLU home away from home

By Shannon McClain, Guest Columnist

Let’s face it, orientation was just what first years needed: getting up early, going to bed late and all of those activities kept us so busy and tired we barely had time to think about home.

Now all of that is over and we are settling into our first real days of college.

College is a major change in our lives. We are experiencing new things and meeting new people while adjusting to college classes and residence halls. For some, college is a far cry from the place they’ve called home all their lives.

Until PLU becomes home to us we may find ourselves homesick. It is completely normal to feel anxious in these new surroundings. Elizabeth Barton, a psychologist in the Counseling Center, said uncertainty makes us nervous.

The natural instinct when you’re homesick is to go home. However, this may not be ideal. It may temporarily reduce feelings of homesickness, but in the long run you may be isolating yourself from your new community. If you go home every weekend the first month of school, you may not have as many opportunities to make connections with new people.

Wait at least a month before you go home and do what you can to create a place for yourself first. Try to get involved. Join a club, sport or other activity on campus. Make sure that you get out of your room every day, more than just to go to class or eat meals in the dining hall. 

The distance between your new environment and your old one can make a difference. The further away you are from home, the more jarring a new place may be.

Embrace your new environment by making new friends.

It might seem strange at first. You might have known the friends you had back home all your life. You might not know anyone here. It takes time to create lasting friendships and make them strong. Hanging out with new people can lead to more of the long-lasting friendships you had back home.

Emotional and academic preparedness can also play a role. Functioning independently, like doing your own laundry or cleaning up after yourself, can make the transition easier. It is self-empowering. Knowing how to do these things makes us feel like we are adults and we belong in college.

If you have feelings of homesickness, Barton recommends asking yourself, “What am I missing from home?” and “is there a way to bring that into my life here?” For example, you may have a favorite dish that your mom always makes for you. Well, consider submitting the recipe to Lute Bites and the Anderson University Center might make it for dinner one night.

To make college seem less frightening, take some things with you from your past.  Mementos can bring familiarity and security to a new environment. 

One of the best things a person can do is establish a routine. In college there is a temptation to do whatever you want, like stay up until four in the morning or not go to class. This doesn’t make us feel secure. Establishing a routine gives us a sense of control and certainty over our day.  

If you have homesickness that is affecting your ability to take care of yourself, then you should visit the Counseling Center on campus in the upper level of the AUC.

In college we all venture out into the unknown with some nerves and anxiety. Think about what you want to do and who you want to be in college.

Then, do it.