Navigating Homesickness: Tips from a Notre Dame Student

Author: Savannah Carr

Leaving home for college is an exciting adventure, but it’s also common to experience homesickness. No matter if you’re coming to campus for the first or hundredth time, you’re bound to miss some aspects of home, whether that be your family, your friends, or even your dog! Adjusting to a new environment can take some time, but with the right strategies and avenues, you can effectively manage your homesickness and start to appreciate everything Notre Dame has to offer. Here are some tips that have helped me throughout the years:

Savannah and her parents at junior parents weekend.

Stay Connected

One of the biggest ways to manage homesickness is to stay connected with the people that remind you of home. I call my parents and sisters back home at least once a week, and it's a great way to stay updated with little life moments. Social media is another great way to interact with high school friends online, and it’s always so fun to see what everyone has been up to. This is also your reminder to call your grandparents—they love hearing from you! Knowing that you are just a phone or video call away can provide comfort during stressful times.

You also don’t have to stick to technology to stay connected–one of my aunts loves getting letters in the mail, so I write her holiday cards and she loves that personally written touch! It’s very affordable to write letters to others, all you need is a piece of paper, some markers, and a stamp.

Explore & Get Involved

Immersing yourself into the Notre Dame Community is another great way to build new connections and find your home on campus–we have SO many clubs that you are bound to find your niche! While on campus, my main involvements include the Fighting Irish Marching Band, Society of Women Engineers, Show Some Skin, Voices of Faith, and Shades of Ebony. Every single group has an amazing cohort of people that has made my time here at Notre Dame so special! Though no one can beat familial connections, you can get pretty close with roommates, class peers, and activity members.

In addition to interacting with other peers, I have also loved exploring nature while on campus. I took a run around the lakes a few months ago, and it was so freeing that it washed away some of my fears. There are also many great restaurants and activities to do off-campus, and that's another great way to engage with your surroundings.

Savannah and her roommates at the last home football game

Craft a Physical Space

A unique aspect about Notre Dame is the mandatory random roommate assignments you’ll get your freshman year. You’ll be placed in a random dorm with a random roommate in a random location on campus, and while you may not be besties with your dorm-mates, it's crucial for you to curate a space that reminds you of home. This can include paintings, tapestries, bedding, photos, mementos—really anything that can evoke a feeling of comfort. This can help make a new environment feel like home and allow you something physical to hold onto. I printed pictures that my family took of us during my high school graduation, and hung them around my desk. Anytime I was feeling stressed and homesick, I would look up at the photos and smile, knowing that my family had my back even from thousands of miles away.

Reach Out For Support & Practice Self-Care

Mental and physical health are priorities here at Notre Dame, and if students are really struggling to get adjusted, there are lots of resources available to help! The University Counseling Center has drop-in hours, counseling appointments, and calming spaces specifically for students to become acclimated and enjoy their time here at college.

I have utilized some of the services within the UCC, and they really do have great resources. I also appreciate the confidential and non-confidential sources to ensure that all needs are met. RA’s and Rectors within the dorms are also great points of contact to become familiar with, as they can point you in the right direction depending on the situation.

It’s also helpful to prioritize exercising, meditation, and anything else that can promote wellbeing in order to maintain a positive outlook while experiencing homesickness!

Give Yourself Time & Grace

You are coming to college for the first time, so allow yourself some grace! No one expects you to get it right the first time and have it all figured out; trust me, no matter how put together someone looks, everyone is going through something under the surface. Everyone needs help sometimes, so don’t be scared to reach out to others, take the time you need, and give yourself space to ensure a positive healing process.

It's completely normal to experience ups and downs during a new experience, but with time and persistence you’ll gradually adapt to your new environment and feel more at home!

I believe in you, you’ve got this!