Magazine article University Business

Helping Students Cope with Homesickness: It's a Job That Administrators Are Taking on in Various Ways

Magazine article University Business

Helping Students Cope with Homesickness: It's a Job That Administrators Are Taking on in Various Ways

Article excerpt

"THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE home," said Judy Garland as Dorothy in the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. That simple statement is still used very often in today's society--especially among first-year college students.

Homesickness is all too real for students and a common issue that college administrators contend with each year. Although slight nostalgia is a perfectly normal part of being out on one's own for the first time, it can turn down a dangerous road if not treated.

Students with severe homesickness often exhibit similar characteristics. For example, homesick students have poor decision-making and study skills, maintain constant communication with family and friends from home, display anxiety toward social situations, and often withdraw from activities they would normally enjoy, says Gene Kelly, assistant director of student activities and student development at Lebanon Valley College (Pa.). Major issues faced by colleges and universities include finding out which students cross the line from slightly nostalgic to severely homesick and what the best approach is to deal with these types of students.

LVC takes swift action in helping students acclimate to their new environment. They assemble an Early Alert Team consisting of administrative and faculty members. They meet weekly to discuss any problems that are linked to specific students, says Kelly. LVC also designed a supplementary program to welcome new students. "Each student is assigned a Peer Mentor. Peer Mentors are upper-class students who volunteer to serve as a resource for new students--helping them make a successful academic, emotional, and social transition to campus," says Kelly.

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Hope College (Mich.) leaders also understand the prevalence of homesickness among first-year students and have put much effort and resources into combating it. Their first day on campus, freshmen students are placed into an orientation group, which will provide a support system while helping them adjust to their new surroundings. Hope's innovative First-Year Seminar program "places students into a small class with a faculty or staff member to learn about a topic or issue in a seminar format," says Kristen Gray, assistant dean and director of counseling. …

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