It is almost time for the ‘big goodbye’; the memorable moment when parents go back home and students remain in their new residence rooms. This experience can be difficult to deal with for students and parents alike, but you must remember, you have done this before.
On the first day of kindergarten, you cried and clung to your Mom, not wanting her to leave you in such a foreign environment. You begged her not to leave, but she promised she would come back for you at the end of the day.
Now there has been a role reversal. You assure your mom that you will eat your vegetables and go to class, not wanting you to leave her with an emptiness in her heart. She wishes she could beg you to stay with her but knows it is for the best as you promise you will call her occasionally and return home for Thanksgiving.
Clark Rumble, who is entering into his fourth year of the Concurrent Education program at Laurier Brantford remembers when he was in this situation.
“It wasn’t a particularly emotional experience for any of us, my parents were very proud of me for moving on and going to university, since they never did and I was just excited,” Rumble remembers. “None of us cried or had a hard time saying goodbye because we knew we’d stay in touch and still see each other… [but] My mom cried after I was gone apparently, but not while I was there actually saying goodbye.”
For students who have a more difficult time adjusting to the change, Dr. Rahul Saxena, who is an Adolescent Medicine Specialist with the Rouge Valley Health System and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and an associate professor at the University of Toronto suggests two basic ideas for students.
“First of all, jump in with both feet and relish the first year away from home. Get involved, make new friends, engage in different activities and stay busy,” she suggests. “Secondly, always remember that no matter how isolated and alone you feel there are a few thousand other kids who feel the exact same way. You are not alone.”
“My biggest piece of advice would be to not visit home for a while,” Rumble suggests. “I know a lot of students who would go home every week, right from the first week of school and as a result they were always homesick and missing home. Just give yourself a chance to become immersed in the university lifestyle and before you know it you won’t be thinking of home that much at all that’s not saying not to go home at all, but just not all the time at first.”
As for parents who are having trouble letting go, Saxena says “parents need to accept the fact that this process, as uncomfortable as it can feel, is a totally normal event in a young adult’s life. Parents need to do their best to be supportive without worsening their own teen’s anxiety about being away from home. It’s very much the same approach as when their child went to kindergarten for the first time. Just like then, everything has a way of working out.”
Saxena suggests that parents should “minimize [the goodbye]. The bigger you make the goodbye, the greater the trauma of being alone feels.”
As for how to deal with homesickness, Saxena has a simple solution for students.
“Suck it up. Remember that everyone is going through the same thing as you are; and remember why you are there…it’s your dream, your chance at becoming something you’ve worked very hard to achieve.”
Laurier Brantford offers counseling for students who are having great difficulty dealing with their homesickness or loneliness. Not to mention that in the worst-case scenario, there are east and westbound trains and buses that can take students back to their home towns on weekends if they are in need of some home cooking and hugs from their family.