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Fending Off Fall Homesickness

BU students reflect on first-semester homesickness.

By Alicia Hamm

Graphic by Lila Berger

Many people experience homesickness at one point or another. It may strike after a move across the world or even during a few-days-long vacation. It’s also one of the biggest challenges that freshmen face during their first semester of college.

“It hits hard in the first few days,” said Heng Chang (CDS ’26), an international student from China who lived with a host family in the United States for the past three years.

Chang described that, “it’s not like the ‘home’ homesickness,” but that he misses his high school, friends, and host family in the United States.

Rachael Kelley is an instructor of FY101, a course that aims to guide first-semester freshmen through the transition to college. She said a big part of homesickness stems from the shift in social environments.

“You’re trying to find relationships, build bonds and things of that nature, and you’re missing the bonds that you already built when you were at home,” Kelley said.

According to a study published to the National Library of Medicine, freshmen may be prone to homesickness because for many of them, the switch to campus life is their first long-term move. Boston may also be an unfamiliar setting: BU students come from all 50 states and more than 118 countries.

“It is a big change,” said Al Sutherland (COM ’26). I have definitely been feeling homesick because Boston falls are very different from Southern California falls.”

However, Christopher Hyon (CAS ’26), who is from New Jersey, said he is not feeling too homesick.

“I only live four hours away from here, so it’s not too much, not too far away,” Hyon said.

For the homesick and non-homesick, local and international alike, holding on to parts of home can be a source of comfort.

Sutherland has been playing Splatoon 3, a recently released Nintendo Switch game, with their younger brother across the country. In Chang’s case, he brought Kansas City Chiefs merchandise with him to BU, which reminds him of home. Hyon said that in the case of homesickness, he would probably call his mom.

Kelley recommended that students schedule time to connect with people from home, but she pointed out the importance of balancing family and school. This means setting boundaries and making time for school-related activities.

Students across all years may grapple with homesickness, so it is beneficial to develop good coping strategies early on. Part of that comes down to finding a home away from home.

Kelley, who got her master’s degree from BU in 2021, said she still feels homesick to this day, even though it has gotten better. Her advice is, “Find people that you can be your full, authentic self with. Because that will also create a sense of home while you’re away from home.”

After all, there is no place like home. But home can also become what you make it, and who you make it.

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