There’s a story that my mom often likes to tell about me about being homesick. I was eight years old, and we were taking our very first family vacation out of state, to Walt Disney World. Being from Ohio, it ended up being much cheaper to drive the two of us to Florida and back, even with an overnight stay in North Carolina. I should say that prior to this vacation, I had been away from home for many extended periods of time, attending weeklong summer camps and spending weeks at a time with my grandparents. Being away from home was not new to me, but being this far from home became a problem. At eight years old, with my mom by my side, on my way to Walt Disney World, in a strange hotel room in North Carolina, I became massively homesick. There is no other way to describe it besides to say that I had a complete meltdown. I cried the entire night, begging my mom to take us back home and scrap the entire trip. It was a mess.
It’s hard to think about being homesick, especially as an adult. For a child, it makes sense. New surroundings, being away from people you know, etc., etc…But as an adult—at Harvard, no less—this is something we should be over. Right? No. At least, not for me. As you can imagine, the girl who grew up to move to Cambridge away from her family and friends back in Ohio became massively homesick, and wanted nothing more than to pack everything back up and find the nearest Amtrak station. But obviously, that didn’t happen. I think I know why, but it’s not because I’ve grown out of being homesick. Rather, it’s that I now have the tools through my HDS family here as well as the support of my loved ones back home to deal with these feelings. Moving is hard, and leaving is harder. It’s ok to want to go home. It’s ok to feel like you might not belong, and be scared out of your mind of the unknown. But what matters is not how you feel, but what you do with those emotions.
The only thing I can offer you as you worry about missing everything back home is my own advice and experience. Yes, it’s hard. But you’re not alone. We’ve all dealt with being homesick, in one way or another. And it does get easier, as long as you work at it. First and foremost, take care of yourself. Do whatever you were doing before you left. If you have a specific spiritual practice—continue that! If you did yoga every Wednesday morning, don’t stop. Get plenty of sleep and eat well—feeling good will make things easier.
Plan on coming a little before Orientation to get a feel for the place. Go explore and practice solitude. Get on Facebook and make friends with the new incoming class. Introduce yourself to people in your building, and take advantage of some of the activities in Cambridge and Boston. But don’t be afraid to be sad. Call home, and cry if you need to. Have Skype dates with loved ones. Plan your return trip home—I bought my train ticket back for Christmas as soon as I had my final exam schedule, and just having that in my hand made it a little easier to be away.
Finally, try not to be too hard on yourself. It’s hard not to, especially in a place such as this. But give yourself a break, and allow yourself to be human.