I was 8 or 9 years old when my mom sent me to sleep-away camp for the first time. It was the same camp she had gone to and I was beyond excited. Until I was 12 years old, I lived in a house of only adults, so I was beyond ready to spend two weeks in nature with kids my own age. Despite never being away from my family before, I didn’t get homesick (although I pretended to because everyone else did #peerpressure).
In fact, I loved getting away for the summers that two weeks of sleepaway camp eventually turned into a month every summer. After a few years of that, I started going to an academic sleep away camp at Northwestern, which was three weeks long. Essentially, every summer starting when I was about 12, I was gone for at least 7 weeks of the summer.
Now, let’s fast forward to August 2016. My family is preparing to send me away to college exactly 972 miles away from the home I grew up in. I’m an incredibly emotional person, so I cried when my family dropped me off and I cried when I said goodbye to all my friends. I prepared myself to leave home by bringing lots of pictures and stuffed animals but as the first semester rolled by, I still hadn’t gotten hit with the homesickness everyone told me I would experience.
Now, let’s fast forward again to August 2017. Another year older and another year wiser. Instead of making the 15-hour drive to drop me off at school, my family puts me on a plane and sends me on my way (this way not only more cost and time effective, but ensured I did not try to pack up the whole house like I did the previous year). I expected things to go swimmingly. I was a sophomore now, not the new kid on campus but not old like my senior friends who are preparing to start their real lives (sorry, Rachel). Homesickness came at me hard and I didn’t know what to do.
I called my mom and told her how I felt and she instantly started looking at plane tickets for that very weekend but I told her I had to hold out until my planned trip home in November. At that time, it felt like one of the worst decisions I ever made. My family means everything to me and I missed them like crazy and here I was passing up an opportunity to go home. But, in the end, that was the best choice.
The consistent homesickness passes and now only comes in waves. Once I fell into the routine of the school year, it was easier to distract myself from those feelings. I reconnected with my family on campus (aka, COM) and started volunteering so I can get off campus once a week. I talk to my family as frequently as possible (for example, yesterday I called my mom just to tell her about the amazing salad I had) and I’m counting down the days until I go home again (at the time I wrote this: 26 days, 16 hours, and 12 minutes). Now that I’ve finally experienced homesickness and know how to deal with it, I’m ready to tackle this next four years. Next years challenge? Spending the whole year abroad.