August 2017: Handling Common Student Stress Experiences: Homesickness


By: Office of Residence Life Staff

We hope your student has jumped right in and started embracing all the wonderful things their new home away from home has to offer. As they get adjusted, please recognize there are certain stressors that some students may experience. One of those stressors is homesickness. While your student is now technically an adult and on their own, they will still want you in their time of need. Your guidance and comfort will help with your student’s growth and development. Preparing now will help you know what to say when the “venting call or text” arrives on your phone. Remember, sometimes all your student needs to do is get the thoughts/feelings off their chest. They may not want you to do anything, but listen for those moments in the conversation where you can drop your pearls of wisdom!

Homesickness is the longing for what is normal and comfortable, not just about missing home. For your student everything is new where they are now and adjusting to a new life away from home and family can be challenging. Feeling homesick is part of the learning process.

If your student is experiencing homesickness, you can help in several ways. Remind them that this is a normal part of change. Knowing they are homesick can help them start to deal with the new feelings they are having. Have them get to know and explore their new surroundings (there is so much to do and see at JMU and Harrisonburg). Encourage involvement in clubs, organizations, intramural sports, volunteering for service, and/or participation in/attendance of athletics, cultural events, outdoor or other activities. As they create a space for themselves at school, feelings of homesickness diminish. Have them open up about the new experiences they are having and help the conversation stay positive. Don’t make everything about the homesickness-remind them of times when they have overcome other challenges and how it led to where they are now.

Encourage your student to talk to students and/or professionals on campus. Other students will have similar feelings and opening up to them about their current experiences can be a great way to start friendships. Persuade them to talk to their resident advisor (RA). RAs are upper-class students who have had similar experiences and will be able to connect your student to the campus, students in the hall/building, and other resources they may need. You can also prompt them to go to the Student Success Center and speak to a trained counselor in JMU’s Counseling Center. The counselors are great at helping students express what they are feeling and creating success plans.

Most students will express some level of homesickness, however, it is important to listen for signs of something more. Has your student been homesick for more days than not over the last six-week period? Is your student able to do what they need to do (go to class, meetings, eating, exercising, sleeping, etc.)? If you get the feeling that what your student is sharing with you is more than homesickness, there is help available. Encourage your student to make an appointment at the Counseling Center. There is no weakness or stigma in getting help.

Other common stressors may include: roommate conflicts, initial adjustments to a new academic environment, values exploration, social life adjustments, initial social reflections, becoming familiar with campus, long distance relationships, feeling inadequate, and/or financial adjustments. Short articles on these and other topics can be found throughout the year at

We look forward to getting to know your students and are available to help with the transition to JMU. If you have any questions about anything related to residence life, feel free to check out the rest of our website, give us a call at (540) 568-HOME, or email us at

Live safe. Live close. Live supported. Live engaged. LIVE ON!

Published: Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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