Wellness: Finding My Way Back Home
Wellness is a special blog series that aims to promote an honest, open, and supportive culture of physical and mental health on campus.
In this installment, Graphic Design student Haley Jacobs shares her experience with homesickness and her thoughts on how to overcome it.
Making the decision to leave home for school can be hard, especially when we take into account all of the different variables involved. Moving is a life-changing adventure. Some parts of it are good, and other parts are, well, difficult and scary to put it mildly. For some of us, going away to college means leaving everything we know and love behind. We may not see our pets for weeks on end, and if we have a significant other, that person may not always be close enough to offer us the comfort of a familiar face as we enter a new land of independence.
KCAD Graphic Design student Haley Jacobs (image courtesy of Haley Jacobs)
Moving to Grand Rapids from Farmington Hills, MI. (just outside of Detroit) was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Prior to coming to Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD), I went to a community college and lived at home, where I felt safe but also stir crazy at times. Having been a student at KCAD for three years now, I’ve learned that there are different types of homesickness, and that the intensity of homesickness is dependent on our mood and on what is currently happening in our lives. For me, homesickness was a yearning for my family and friends. For others, it could come from lacking the feeling of being “home,” or missing a pet.
My own problems with homesickness also stemmed from being a transfer student. I found out that a lot of people in my classes had known each other since they started college. Even now, after I have made friends, it can still be hard.
No matter how much planning we do ahead of time, living on our own is hard. Between organizing, packing, unpacking, shopping, and cleaning to get our home away from home ready, the probability of getting lost in one project can bring the moving process to a halt. The first year of living on our own is always the hardest, and it does not always get easier. With time, we can adjust and adapt, and while it may seem easier for a while, a bump in the road can make us feel as insecure as when we first moved out.
I lived in an apartment complex with three other roommates during my first year at school. I went from waking up on a full size bed with a dog beside me and my parents down the hall to a twin extra-long bed in much smaller room. Sharing an apartment with three other girls was often difficult; the word “anxious” comes immediately to mind. I began to feel like anxiety would be a constant companion until I found a place I could really call home. To help relieve some of these problems, I had friends and family help me find a new place to live where I could have a more private room and feel comfortable and at peace.
Comfort and peace of mind do not have to be costly or luxurious. They can also come from things that are simple and small. For me, it was a collage I made of all my friends, using rich colored posters to break up all the white paint on the walls. I filled my new living space with as many things that screamed my personality as I could.
Over the next year, I had a few emotional breakdowns. I was often lonely and upset, and I didn’t know how to cope or who to go to. It was difficult because my roommates still seemed like strangers, and while I lived with them I didn’t feel I could fully trust them. While I liked them well enough, it was as if I was walking on eggshells because I felt so out of place. I also didn’t want to burden them with my problems. I ended up spending much of my time either at school or in my room. In hindsight, this was no way to live. It was a big reason why I was always miserable and homesick.
This continued until I finally found my place and my people. I had made some friends at school, so it wasn’t like I was always alone, but it felt like it because we didn’t do much outside of school and see each other beyond class. We did not form that instant bond that happens when you see someone and just know that despite time, your bond can always pick up where it left off. However, it was through one of these friends that I met a girl at the end of my second semester. Two years later, she and I became roommates, and through her that feeling of “right” happened. When that one feeling starts to happen, that is when everything else feels like it will smooth out and all the struggles were worth it. With her help, I got used to living away from home. It became a little less scary and a little more approachable.
In living with someone I could truly call a friend, I began to open up to everything that KCAD has to offer. I’ve found that while Graphic Design is my home and passion, the Digital Media and Industrial Design floors have become where I hang out to meet new people. My roommate became that bridge between the familiar and unfamiliar.
To help relieve the anxiety and homesickness, we have to make sure to give ourselves some variety. This includes visiting and maybe taking a class in a different department, going out to eat and trying a new restaurant, or cooking something other than ramen for dinner. I know that our apartmens and our classrooms are comfortable places for us, but these places can feel like cages if we spend too much time there. Take a step outside for a walk just for some fresh scenery. I found that walking around Rosa Parks Circle and reading in Ah-Nab-Awen Park on nice days is great. Get a membership to the Meijer Gardens, where there’s a library and art exhibits that are good for inspiration, as well as a sculpture garden that is very peaceful and serene.
Currently, I have moved into one of the local rental homes and found a balance that keeps me happy. I still feel torn between my two worlds. I am constantly trying to cope with the changes I have to make to stay happy. I still feel homesick, it is just different now. It is more of an unsettled feeling of when I am in my hometown wanting to get back to school and thrive in the environment I have created for myself verses when I am at school I am missing the familiar comforts of home.
Remember, when we are homesick, we are not alone. There are many students here who have felt similarly and struggle to find their balance between knowing they are going to be OK and actually being OK. Finding a friend to lean on can be tough, but when we do, we can learn to support on another.