There’s no place like home

By J_Howard

Your new apartment is all set up, decorations are hanging on the blinding white walls and your Facebook status has been updated to let everyone know you have officially moved to the big city. College is a time to explore and begin the transition into adulthood, and for many this means leaving the comforts of home behind.

For some students this may sound exciting, but for others, conquering this large city may seem like a daunting task. Homesickness can greatly affect a student’s college experience.

“Homesickness is an issue for most college students because it’s a brand-new living environment,” said Jackie Sowinski-Hamlett, director of Counseling Services at Columbia. “Experiencing a new environment like Chicago—that can be overwhelming when starting off on the academic or college journey.”

On Sept. 16 at noon, Counseling Services will host Little Fish, Big City in the Quincy Wong Center of the Wabash Campus Building 623 S. Wabash Ave. The program focuses on dealing with the effects

of homesickness.

“Little Fish, Big City talks all about college adjustment, knowing resources and what is available for you,” Sowinski-Hamlett said.

Columbia provides incoming students with orientation, Weeks of Welcome and counseling services year-round to help students adjust and get acclimated to the new urban and educational environment.

“We really encourage students to take advantage of those initial programs offered here at Columbia, so you can get connected with other students, get connected to Chicago and have some experiences where you are creating this sense of community,” Sowinski-Hamlett said.

Erica Berg, licensed clinical psychologist in Chicago, said homesickness can be a form of separation anxiety.

“There’s a lot of anxiety that comes with this huge overhaul in one’s life,” Berg said. “All of a sudden you are sort of jettisoned out of the house and now you are supposed to be able to manage it all on your own.”

Berg said the awareness of safety in the city and navigating public transportation could be just a few challenges that may add to the stress level and homesickness one feels.

“The traditional idea of college is that you go to this campus and there are big, ivy-covered buildings and lots of green grass everywhere,” Berg said. “And an urban environment is so much different than that.”

Signs of someone dealing with homesickness can be visible. According to a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2007 by Christopher A. Thurber, Ph.D. and Edward Walton, M.D., students affected can have lower self-esteem, forgetfulness and trouble in class. Berg added that one could also feel symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Alex Corbett, a junior journalism major at Columbia, said he notices the effects homesickness has on his friends

and classmates.

“I do understand that students who go here really do become homesick. You can definitely tell; it comes out in their work,” Corbett said.

A large part of feeling the anxiety of homesickness is the family and friends one can leave behind.

“Being in Chicago, I really enjoy it,” said Kit Coacoagas, sophomore advertising and art direction major who comes to Columbia from Detroit.

“At the same time, I feel really bad that I left a lot of [people] at home like my mom and other friends,” Coacoagas said.

The influence of family can both help and hurt the homesickness a student may have. Berg suggests families and students keep in touch but maintain a balance with life on campus and independence.

“College students [should] assert their own needs to their family as far as what they need as help,” Berg said.