Tips on dealing with homesickness

homesickness

by Maddi

1. Get out of your room:

It’s so easy to spend hours watching netflix or reading in bed, eating the boxes of thin mints that the strategically-placed girl scout stands guilted you into buying and drinking your day’s worth of nutrients in Emergen-C’s.

It’s so tempting to change into pajamas after class at 2pm and procrastinate your schoolwork by hibernating until dinner. But this temptation, especially towards the beginning of the year, is one of the biggest catalysts of homesickness. Homesickness is normal and often prevalent no matter how far away from home you go. That being said, going out of state or across the country really limits the opportunity to go home, so it’s best to find methods to deal with feeling homesick.

I’ve found that one of the best ways to deal with homesickness is to occupy yourself with something outside of your room. Whether it’s going on a run, going to get ice cream, or finding a pretty view to draw a picture of, forcing yourself to leave your room helps you adapt and get used to your surroundings.

2. Join a sport team or club similar to what you did at home

Although I’ve met the majority of my friends through clubs or teams that are different from what I participated in in High school, I’ve found that playing soccer here has been a great way to still feel connected to home. Whether it’s an Intramural, club, or varsity sport, doesn’t really matter as long as it isn’t adding extra stress.

Playing a sport or joining a club similar to what you did before college is comforting yet allows you to individualize that experience even more for yourself – which i have found to be really rewarding.

3. Join a group that is outside of your comfort zone:

While joining a familiar activity can be comforting, becoming a part of a group outside of your comfort zone differentiates life at college from life at home – which really helps the adaptation process.

For me, my unfamiliar experience was joining the Cal quidditch team. While yes it is nerdy and weird, it is the activity that compiles many of my different interests into one and has thoroughly changed my experience here at Cal. Little did I know that quidditch is a highly physical and competitive sport that takes part in the United States Quidditch association and has the close team atmosphere that I had always loved about soccer. Combining this competitive team atmosphere and my love for Harry Potter, quidditch turned out to be the perfect place for me to meet the people who I had most in common with – now my best friends.

Staying ACTIVE!

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by Lulu

I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard about gaining the “Freshman 15”, so what can you do to prevent that from happening?

Well it’s definitely a lot easier said than done. As someone who participated in sports throughout high school, it was easy to stay active because practices were mandatory exercise in my schedule. If not for the obligatory conditioning and training, I’d consider myself quite unmotivated to get ready and go to the gym.

Like many college students, continuing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle in college is a priority for me. Because college is such a crazy, busy time for balancing numerous aspects of your life, that is just another reason to stay active: to relieve stress. Balancing a social life and academic course load can be really challenging, so you may ask yourself ‘how can I find time to stay active during college?’

There are several ways to integrate exercise into other parts of your life to make new friends and have fun while being healthy! Depending on the college you attend, the options may vary due to the resources and facilities available at your school, but a workout option for anyone is to go running or biking on a trail around campus.

I personally love going on a run on the East River Parkway down by the Mississippi River or by the Stone Arch Bridge. On warmer days, I like to bike to the Walker Art Center for a longer workout. Sometimes running alone can be dreadful, so to make working out a social activity and something to look forward to, I figured out weekly running sessions with friends .

For those students whose college is located in an area that is affected by the arctic tundra of winter, like the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, running year-round may not be an option. But chances are the college has invested in an indoor recreational facility or gym for student-use!

The words “I’m going to the gym” may prompt a negative connotation in your mind, but working out is a must to stay active and has many benefits. There are stationary machines like cycling or elliptical machines that hold books, so it’s possible to combine studying and working out to make it a win-win situation. By carving out time to workout in my weekly schedule, it becomes easier to be motivated to go to the gym and makes me less stressed about other time commitments. Another positive aspect of making exercise routine, is that it relieves stress and may become an outlet or distraction from other stressors.

Another great option for those interested in a competitive workout atmosphere is intramural or club sports. At the U, there are the official Division I sports teams with the highest level of competition, club sports for competitive athletes still interested in a structured schedule with serious coaching, and then there are intramurals which are similar to competing in sports at the Park & Rec level.

I’m a part of the University Running Club and we have weekly practice with coaches and compete against other Division II and III schools in the National Intramural Running Club Association on the weekends. On the other hand, intramurals are extremely fun and there are varying levels of competitiveness as well. I’m on the coed flag football team and we have very minimal time commitments throughout the week. We have tons of fun but still enjoy the thrill of winning on game days!

There are numerous ways to be as competitive or active as you wish in college. For individuals who really enjoyed being part of a team in high school or even for those with minimal experience, I encourage you to take a chance and try out for a club or intramural team sport. It may be frightening and scary at first, but others have gone through the process before and it is definitely worth it. Your future teammates and friends will love you as an additional benefit.

I can guarantee you won’t regret it!

 

Studying Abroad – The Process

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By Ariana

I think studying abroad is something almost every college student, if asked or surveyed, would say they would be interested in. Actually partaking in studying abroad is something only about 10 percent of college students do, depending on where you search on the web.

It is important to be active in your plans to study abroad.

In my case I knew I wanted to do it, I figured out a time when I could go (with my academics, and how long I wanted to go for) and then did some research on where to go. It doesn’t have to be as extensive as you would think, as along as you’ve narrowed down some countries, and chosen a time frame (year, semester, summer or winter program) it becomes possible to sit down and compare the ins and outs of programs.

My college has a study abroad website with a list of all the programs offered, as well as some affiliated programs, which is where I found my programs. As far as choosing the time frame, I worked with my academic counselor to formulate a plan for going abroad and still graduating on time.

I had a tough time deciding between two programs – one in Greece and another in Spain. I have always wanted to go to Greece, but the Greek programs that I looked at were more expensive and offered less within the program. When I looked at Spain they offered so many more excursions and it had a better price tag!

So now I am here!

The next step after deciding where you want to go is going through the application process. I would recommend applying early.

Learn from my experience – I waited till the last minute to apply,  even though I was well aware of the deadline, I just had a little self-doubt. In the end it worked out, but it added stress to the process.

I think having doubts or fear is a normal part of the process, traveling to new country by yourself and then living there for three months or maybe even longer is a scary thought, but I knew I was going to do it, even if it was the last day I could apply.

Side Note: You can’t ever let fear take over your life and it’s important to be aware of it, and not let it stand in your way of opportunity, knowledge and growth. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to take your life somewhere else for a bit, take advantage of it!

The reason why I also think you should apply early is because getting a visa is not exactly easy and the process can be long.

I would advise you to try to be as proactive as you can with filling out all your paper work or anything that’s needed from your program, getting letters of recommendation, filing out financial forms, getting your passport (if you don’t have one already, or getting an old one renewed) and getting classes reviewed by your college to ensure the credits will transfer (if they aren’t already in the system).

But I promise, all this work will pay off, because the world is waiting for you!

Until next time!

-Ariana

Creating a Home in College

home

by Guanani

There’s plenty of college advice floating around about leaving home and transitioning to college, but very little about what it means to create a home for yourself once you’re there.

One of the most valuable things I’ve come to learn is the importance of creating a home; without a solid place to come back to, physically and emotionally, it’s easy to feel lost, confused, and not sure how to ground all the hard work and exploration that a college experience involves. Home isn’t just something you find, but something you actively create according to your needs and values.

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Here are a few things that make a home feel like home for me:

  1. A space where you feel comfortable and relaxed.

This can be tricky if you find yourself in a loud, cramped dorm situation, but home doesn’t necessarily have to be where you’ve been assigned to live.

Look for a place where you feel calm and can unwind from the day. If you have a friend who lives in a quieter area, spend time in their dorm. Maybe there’s a pleasant spot on campus with a cool tree, or a corner in the library you can return to on a regular basis that can serve as a home away from home.

  1. Headquarters for your life.

Home is the axis that supports the rest of your life, whether that means a pit stop for snacks or a nap, a cozy corner where you can reflect, or just a place where you keep your things. Ideally home in college is conveniently near your classes, friends, and sources of food and other necessities.

The important thing is for it to be close enough that you feel connected to the greater college community while still having your own personal space.

  1. People or a community to come home to.

This has been by far the most important part of creating a home in college for me. Feeling like I belong and having people to talk to, study, and go on adventures with became easier as time went on and new friendships were formed. Living in a distinct community without your family offers you the unique opportunity to build a family of friends to support each other when things get difficult, do homework with, or just spend time together on a regular basis.

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Making a home takes time and effort.

It doesn’t happen overnight, and finding the right circumstances and strong relationships to make it happen can be hard or even frustrating in the midst of all the various challenges college brings. Home should be a focal point in the constellation of your life, something you can rely on, feel safe in, and come back to over and over again.

As you move on from living with families and discover the possibilities offered by independent living, don’t forget to consider what creating a good home means to you.

Down to the Minute

A Beginner’s Guide to Time Management

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by Natalie

College, not unlike all other stages of life, requires amazing skills of patience, scheduling, finagling, and, most importantly, time management.  In my first semester at Concordia I was taking 18 academic credits and working 5 hours a week for a small stipend as an intern in the theatre department, as well as balancing a full-fledged romantic relationship and a role in the musical, Les Miserables.

This semester, however, is a little different.  First, I stopped working in the theatre department because it didn’t pay enough and it wasn’t a good fit for me as far as scheduling hours went.  Second, I’m only taking 15 credits this semester, as I started taking an elective class about lighting design that proved to be too much to chew.  Third, I picked up a job working at Target.  I work 10-20 hours a week, folding clothes and working the cash registers.  And, on top of all of that, this semester, a friend of mine was hospitalized and I spent a good chunk of time being there for her.

I like to think of everything in my life as a class with a credit number.

  • My boyfriend, Nick, is a 4-credit course.
  • My role in Les Mis was two 4-credit courses; it took up about as much time as 2 full academic classes and I put in extra work on show weekends.
  • My job in the theatre department was a 1-credit course.
  • My job at Target is a 4-credit course.
  • My friend in the hospital was a 2-credit course.
  • My Netflix habit is definitely a 2-credit course at least.
  • My social life at large is probably about a 2-credit course as well (if we don’t include Nick and my friend in the hospital).

Assuming I did my math correctly (which is not a safe assumption), I came out with 35 credits last semester and 29 this semester.  So why did last semester seem so much easier than this semester has been so far?

Well folks, it comes down to how well I’ve been managing my time.  Last semester, I kept myself to a strict schedule that documented what I had planned 24/7.  I would wake up, go to breakfast, go to class, do chores, go to my next 2 classes, do homework, go to choir, get dinner, watch an episode of whatever series I was working on in Netflix, go to rehearsal, do homework, hang out with Nick, go to bed.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

This semester I haven’t handled my time in the conservative fashion I did last semester.  I have been waking up, going to class, getting lunch with friends, dilly dallying all the way to my next two classes, going to choir, getting dinner, going to work, coming home and going to bed.  On the days that I don’t have classes (Tuesday and Thursday this semester), instead of getting up and taking care of business, I sleep in really late, waste a whole bunch of time on Buzzfeed, eventually do some homework, eat dinner, go to work, hang out with Nick, hang out with other friends, stay up really late doing the homework I’ve been putting off, and then, finally, getting to bed.

The moral of this story, dear readers, is to take care of your time in college.  Ration it, split it up, portion it, and schedule it.  Make it work for you, not against you.  Working out a routine might seem mundane and boring but it is so beneficial when you set aside an hour and a half here, 45 minutes there to get your homework done.

College isn’t just going to class, and working a job so you can pay your tuition.  College isn’t just parties and friends and good times.  College is hard.  It’s hard work, it’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of time.  Time management is the best way to handle the barrage of knowledge and experience you’ll get hit with in college.

You might seem a little crazy at first when you have your day planned down to the minute but you’ll feel less stressed, more motivated, and you’ll learn how to be accountable to yourself and to others.  Time is money and we’ll all need to pay off our student loans someday.

Opportunities = Endless

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by Ariana

First and foremost, the most important thing I have learned from college, is that going to school provides endless opportunities.

No doubt, this is the best aspect of college. There is so much you can do, it is honestly mind-blowing. Before I started college I made a promise to myself that I would be a part of anything that spiked my interest and to get out of my comfort zone.

And so I did.

I joined 6 clubs and 2 organizations. I soon found out that it was a bit too much for me to handle, I had spent all my time going to meetings, talking to different people, learning about new things, discovering so much about U of M – Duluth. But it was great. College was in the palm of my hands and I couldn’t wait to get a taste of it.

Every school year, during the 3rd week of school, UMD has an activities fair, all of the clubs and organizations present themselves so that you can join their force. Here at UMD we have over 300 clubs and organizations.

I’ll sum it up like this: I went to that fair twice to make sure I went through them all. I was definitely eager to become a part of this college community. I became an Intern for the General election this past November, I was a part of Student Ambassadors where I gave tours and spoke to all the high school students that would come to visit our campus and I was a Student Advisor helping incoming transfer students register for classes.

As far as clubs, I am a part of Psychology Club; UMD Serve (community service club); Students Today, Leaders Forever, “STLF,” (Community service trips across the country); and I was a part of International club and Latino/Chicana Student Association, “LCSA,” (Hispanic club). I almost did it all, while also maintaining a job on campus at the Box Office.

All of these organization have taught me a lot.

When I was working on the election, I got to meet a lot of really awesome candidates, including the governor of Minnesota. Student Ambassadors is something I am also passionate about, because I want students to learn about UMD through our experiences or to even just ask questions about life here at UMD, because I was once in their shoes, and I knew what it was like.

Other opportunities are Internships and volunteering – this semester I am becoming a Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault, “PAVSA,” advocate. PAVSA is a state wide organization that is a program aid for victims of sexual assault. I will be starting training in February and then I will be working with the organization through UMD’s office. The reason why I am pursuing this opportunity is because my ultimate goal is to be a mental health counselor and doing this will give me good experience with counseling and helping people in need. I am very excited to take this step and it is a great example of how you can do anything on a college campus.

Also recently, the career and internship services came into my class to talk about how they can help you find a job or an internship and that they have connections all over the state. I strongly encourage all of the college-bound students that are reading this to make sure to take advantage of every opportunity presented, trust me you will not regret it and you’ll have more fun than you’ve ever imagined.

Until next time

-Ariana

Gap Year: Making Your Own Path

Backpacking through san Francisco after climbing something like 15 flights of stairs to Coit tower

‘Backpacking’ through San Francisco after climbing something like 15 flights of stairs to Coit Tower!

by Avery

As a child, you receive constant instructions on what to do from the adults in your life. Where it was okay to go, what to eat, where to play, who to play with. As you get a little older, teachers take on this role, too. This isn’t a bad thing, of course; you were a kid. But now you’ve been told what to do for 17 or 18 years. If your life is anything like mine (which it may not be), it has been structured by other people telling you what to do, and you’re probably pretty used to it.

Oversimplified? Well, probably. Still at least kinda true? I think so.

For me, this was the main reason I didn’t want to go to college right away. Though I really am excited to go to college, I wasn’t ready. I wanted to learn how to structure my own time around my desires and interests, and not out of student-ly obligations. I wanted to define myself outside of my role as a student, and fill my days exactly how I wanted to before settling into another 4+ years in a school system

Now don’t get me wrong: there is infinite knowledge to be gained from others, other people have tons of wisdom to offer, and college is a great thing, but taking time off from school was one of the best calls I’ve ever made.

There are so many reasons to take a break from school. You might be feeling burnt out after high school. Maybe your interests don’t totally match up with a school setting right now. Taking time off to work and save money may be a great idea for you. Maybe you’ve caught a travel bug. Or, maybe you aren’t sure what you want to study in college yet and don’t want to start before you’ve thought about it a bit more.

Maybe you’re hesitant to pursue a gap year as an option. It can be hard to decide what to do with all that time. But the thing is, there are so many options. You can live at home and volunteer somewhere in your community while working part-time. You can do Peace Corps, or Americorps, or work in a national park, or backpack out west, or train puppies, or work at a daycare… You can take a gap year with a program such as Rotary Youth Exchange, or plan the details yourself. Ask around your community, school, relatives, friends…You never know what you may find as a gap year option. The best part is, you can tailor your itinerary (or lack thereof) to what you want, who you are, and what you want to learn.

I decided I wanted the freedom to go where I wanted and to not be tied to the strict schedule of a program, but that isn’t for everyone. I also knew that I wanted to be in nature. A wanted a break from urban Minneapolis, so I decided to use my connection in rural California.

How do you do it?
While I was deciding whether to actually take a gap year, I was also applying to colleges. I ended up simply deferring my enrollment to McGill university; the process was really quite easy. Almost all schools allow you to do this, but make sure to check with the school first. You can also reapply to colleges during your gap year, though this can be a little harder without the support of your high school.

My Plan
I decided to set my year up in “semesters”, having 2 main projects during the school year time frame. It looked something like this:

September and October: Traveled on the West Coast with a friend from high school, while based out of my uncle’s land in Northern California. Worked on art, read a lot, helped with projects around the land, went hiking.

Mount shasta, taken during a day hike in September

Mount Shasta day hike in September

November: I worked as a cook and laborer on a forestry crew. We were clearing dead brush to reduce the risk of forest fires in the area and cutting down trees in a former pine plantation to restore the forest to its natural state.

After the west coast portion of my year, I came home for a few weeks.

January-April: Going to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to volunteer with a human rights non-profit that works with garment factory workers, sex workers, and others. I’ll be their writer and communications person. I’ll live at a house with 3 other volunteers.

May: I’m hoping to travel around Southeast Asia before coming home for the summer!

I’m only a few months into my year, but I’ve already learned so much. My sense of independence and self-reliance has improved a ton. I’ve become more motivated to learn for the sake of learning again (I finally have time to read for pleasure after years of only required readings in school). I’ve met some great people, improved my sense of street smarts and who to trust while traveling, and have had a ton of fun doing it. I’ve been at home the past few weeks and after talking to my friends who are at college right now, I am so thankful that I made the decision to wait on school.

Thinking about taking some time before heading to college? Here are some resources for researching gap year programs and options:

Also be sure to check out your Career & College Center at your high school. They’ve got lots of great connections and programs to recommend.

How to Move In and Survive College Orientation

Guananiby Guanani

Move-in day at Reed College was much more difficult than I anticipated. I had just returned from a lovely pre-orientation backpacking trip and was suddenly thrust into the hustle and bustle of orientation: getting my room set up and unpacked, buying a bicycle (we got hopelessly lost in the process), and starting a long week of required lectures, socializing with hundreds of strangers, and teaching people how to pronounce my name.

It was a disorienting experience.

The first evening was packed with a residence floor meeting to attend, a roommate to meet, freshmen class talks about honorable conduct and the Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy, and a fire spinning show (which was the coolest part of the day by far).

There was no time to process everything happening around me. I was so bewildered that I wished I could just head back into the mountains and not have to start this whole college thing.

Any major transition is difficult, but college orientation made me feel as clueless and lonely as ever. So here are some tips to help you get through it as smoothly as possible:

Get Comfortable With Introductions

During college meet-and-greet activities, you will find yourself repeating your name and where you’re from constantly. It’s okay if you don’t remember everyone’s name, but be sure to always ask for people’s names again if you forget them. It’s not embarrassing, it’s courteous. And if you do remember someone’s name hours or days after meeting them, use it, and savor the relieved smile on their face.

Become a Pamphlet Connoisseur

There will be pamphlets! All sorts of papers will be handed out at activity fairs, info sessions, and any event offering student resources. Before long you’ll find your room flooded with dead trees.

Instead of tossing the entire pile into the recycling bin during a fit of overwhelm, try to get rid of the papers you don’t need/want as you get them, and keep important ones tucked away in a folder for later.

Don’t worry about parties

During orientation I heard about several crazy parties and how freshmen were already passing out on the first night. Drunk people ambled by and hollered outside my dorm while I tried to sleep.

If you think you need to go out and have a wild time as soon as you set foot on campus, remember that you don’t HAVE to do anything. Take your time finding people you can trust and whose company you enjoy. Start out with low-key activities like playing cards in a dorm lounge or taking a walk around campus. Have fun, don’t go overboard, and remember that there are better ways to make friends than getting drunk.

Don’t Hide!

During orientation I found myself tempted to stay in my room organizing things, doing random stuff on the Internet, emailing friends back home, or just reading a book. But hiding in your dorm is not a good way to make friends (unless your roommate is also hiding).

Go to the activities and events, no matter how cheesy they may seem. Sit down with people at meals. The hardest thing about Orientation is reaching out and trying to connect with a bunch of strangers, some of whom will hopefully be friends that you’re emailing during winter break…

Remember to get off campus

One piece of advice I keep hearing over and over from older students is to get off campus once and a while. On Labor Day, my roommate and I took the train to Washington Park and went on a three-hour hike. It was an enormous relief to escape campus after the intense structure of Orientation, do something outside and engage with our wider surroundings. It’s easy to get trapped on campus by homework and other obligations, so it’s all the more important to get away and refresh your mind while you can.

All change is hard, and the transition into college life is no exception. I felt extremely unprepared and isolated, and had conversations with other incoming students who felt the same way.

After the whirlwind of that first week, classes started, and things fell into a rhythm. Three weeks later, I still miss home, assignments are difficult, and I worry about making friends.

However, I feel a lot more comfortable and less overwhelmed than during orientation. And people are starting to pronounce my name right.