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General Info
Student Wellbeing

Contact:  (713) 348-3311 or wellbeing@rice.edu; Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!
Business Hours:  Monday - Friday (9:00 AM - 5:00 PM); closed weekends and University holidays
Located:  Gibbs Wellness Center (next door to the Recreation Center)

Counseling Center

Contact: 713-348-4867 (24 hours) Get emergency information
Business Hours: Monday - Friday (9:00am-5:00pm), closed weekends and University holidays.
Located: Rich Health Service Center( next to the Brown Masters House) and Gibbs Wellness Center

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We're here to help. Click here for more information on how to make an appointment with someone from the Rice Counseling Center.

For answers to common questions and concerns about going to the Counseling Center, check out the Counseling Center FAQs.

Homesickness

After the excitement of O-Week and the “newness” of being here dies down, or even if it feels like you’ve lived and breathed Rice for ages, sometimes you may miss being at home.  

It’s common for people to experience homesickness when they leave a familiar environment for a new one. 

What is homesickness?

Homesickness is the distress and functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and people and things you’re familiar with.

Recognizing some of the common causes,signs, and misconceptions of missing home will help you effectively identify and cope with these feelings, and hopefully spur you to explore your new environment!  If you think you’re experiencing severe homesickness to the point that it’s interfering with your everyday life, then you need to get help

Signs and Symptoms

Common feelings and factors associated with homesickness include: 

  • Grief
  • Nostalgia 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawal
  • Sadness
  • Agoraphobia
  • Claustrophobia
  • Adjustment Disorders – defined as a maladaptive response to an identifiable psychosocial stressor occurring within three months and remitting within six months of the termination of the stressor (in this case, being away from the home).  

Common Effects

Common effects of homesickness include: 

  • social problems
  • behavior problems
  • significant symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • coping deficits
  • feelings of helplessness
  • academic difficulties
  • absentmindedness
  • low self-esteem
  • obsessive thoughts and behaviors  

Risk Factors

The risk factors for homesickness include:

  • experience  
  • personality  
  • family 
  • attitude 
  • perceived presence/absence of social support - In some ways, expectations of intense home-sickness and negative experiences become self-fulfilling prophecies. In a study of college freshmen, perceived absence of social support was a strong predictor of homesickness  
  • perceived amount of control (over life or separation) 
  • anxious or depressed feelings prior to separation – Studies have found that the more intense the negative anticipations of separation are, the more likely that for the person’s experience to actually be perceived as negative.   

Common Misconceptions

1) Myth: Homesickness is only something young kids get.  

Fact: Homesickness is something anyone can experience. It’s normal for people to experience some degree of distress or impairment when they are away from home, and it’s a common part of transitioning to college.  

2) Myth: Severe homesickness will just “go away.”

Fact: If someone’s severely homesick, they need to get help. Severe homesickness requires support, learning positive coping efforts, and may signal a more serious disorder. Studies show that if left untreated, severe homesickness may actually worsen over time.

3) Myth: Talking about home can cause someone to become homesick.

Fact: Talking about missing home does not cause homesickness. It does, however, provide an outlet for that person to express their feelings, and for the listener to potentially encourage and educate ways for dealing with those feelings. 

4) Myth: Homesickness always means missing your family.

Fact: Sometimes, homesickness means missing a part of the life you left behind, such as a pet or home cooking. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean missing your parents.

5) Myth: Homesickness always feels like sadness or anxiousness.

Fact: Homesickness can encompass a range of feelings, such as anger, irritation, or disorientation.

Coping with homesickness

Some tips on healthy ways to cope with homesickness include:

  • Find new ways to meet people – explore new ways to meet and connect with people. Rice offers a variety of ways to connect with new people, from getting involved in clubs, sports teams, college activities, student government, to study groups and classes. 
  • Talk to someone – talk to someone you trust, such as a family member, close friend, or member of the college personnel team, about how you’re feeling. Consider talking to a staff member from the Counseling Center to figure out what your next steps are. 
  • Be patient –getting used to your new environment, and developing new friendships, takes time.
  • Get involved – get outside of your college, find new ways to meet people, join sports or clubs that you like, and explore activities you’ve never tried before. 
  • Take care of yourself – stick to healthy habits in other areas of your life to ensure that other aspects of your wellbeing are healthy, such as getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night, exercising regularly, and eating right. 
  • Find fun, creative things to do by yourself – get to know yourself better. There a plenty of activities that can help you develop your internal self, from writing, reading, exercising, watching a movie, painting, creating something, constructing something, decorating, etc. Consider taking time to develop or hone a skill or technique, from cooking to a foreign language.    

When should I be concerned?

Sometimes it’s difficult to assess whether or your homesickness indicates more serious health issues. Good indicators for figuring out whether or not your homesickness is temporary or developing into a more chronic, serious condition, are the severity, duration, and frequency of homesickness symptoms. If you think that your homesickness is becoming chronic, then you need to get help.   

FAQ

 1) I think I’m experiencing severe homesickness, but I don’t feel comfortable talking with a counselor. What should I do? 

Even if you think that you can manage the symptoms on your own, it never hurts to seek help early for more support, advice, and tips on coping with what you’re experiencing. Consider talking with someone you trust, like a close friend, member of the college personnel team, or RHA, about any issues you’re struggling with. If you’re exhibiting some of the symptoms of homesickness or loneliness, consider the intensity, duration, and frequency of the symptoms before you write off going to a counselor. If any or all of these factors are significant, then you should consider talking with someone from the Counseling Center to figure out better ways to address it. 

2) I’m experiencing some of the signs and symptoms of homesickness or loneliness, but not enough that I feel I need to seek professional help. What should I do? 

If you’re not ready or comfortable talking with someone from the Counseling Center, consider talking with someone you trust, such as a close friend, college master, RA, RHA, or faculty mentor. They may be able to help guide you to appropriate resources.
If you’re afraid that going to the Counseling Center implies that you’re “weak,” or “crazy,” feel reassured that this an incorrect perception. In fact, the majority of people who use the Counseling Center have very typical college concerns which have become burdensome. Also, seeking counseling is actually seen as a sign of strength, not weakness. 

3) How do I tell my friends about my homesickness? 

What and how you tell your friends about your depression is completely up to you. However, make sure you know the parameters of the information you choose to divulge before having the conversation, whether that concerns addressing your symptoms, struggles, and/or treatment, etc. Consider asking a close friend to check in with you regularly about how you’re doing with managing your depression. 

4) I think one of my friends is experiencing severe homesickness, what should I do now? 

Please note: If your friend is in immediate danger or having an urgent health crisis, don’t hesitate to call RUPD at 713-348-6000 NOW.
Having a conversation with a friend about your concerns can be hard. For tips on ways to approach the conversation, check out the “Get Help for a friend” link. If you’re still unsure about how to have an effective conversation, consider contacting the Counseling Center. A staff member can help you figure out better ways to talk with your friend based on your specific situation. If you’re uncomfortable speaking with someone from the Counseling Center, start with a trusted mentor or adult in your life, such as a member of the college personnel team. 

5) How do I deal with my homesickness in my everyday life?

To get help or talk to someone, contact the Counseling Center. For more suggestions for ways to cope with homesickness, see our “Coping with Depression” section on the Depression page. Please keep in mind that these are only suggestions, and are not a substitute for professional help or medical advice. On the other hand, if you’ve tried these suggestions for a period of time and they don’t seem to be alleviating your symptoms, consider talking with a counselor from the Counseling Center to figure out better ways to address your issues. 

References

“Loneliness.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=mesh&term=%22Loneliness%22’ 

Marano, Hara. “The Dangers of Loneliness.” 12 Sept 2007. Psychology Today. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200308/the-dangers-loneliness

Miller, Greg. “Why Loneliness is Hazardous to Your Health.”
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6014/138.full

“Solitude vs. Loneliness.” Psychology Today. http://www.psychologytoday.com/collections/201105/solitude-vs-loneliness/what-is-solitude

“The Basics of Loneliness.” Psychology Today.
http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/loneliness

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.
“The Roots of Loneliness.” http://psychcentral.com/lib/2011/the-roots-of-loneliness/

Thurber, Christopher A., PhD, Walton, Edward, MD, and Council on School Health. “Preventing and Treating Homesickness.” PubMed. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/192.long