Daera: Getting Homesick as a Sophomore

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).

A vintage picture of me leaving for camp, circa 2009
A vintage picture of me leaving for camp, circa 2009

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.

A photo from nerd camp
A photo from nerd camp

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.

A picture of me and my 7-year-old sister, Grace, in my dorm room
A picture of me and my 7-year-old sister, Grace, in my dorm room

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.

A photo of me and my family circa 2011
A photo of me and my family circa 2011

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.

My COM family!
My COM family!

Daera: I managed My Mental Health While Surviving My Freshman Year and You Can, Too!

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression during my junior year of high school. There were symptoms present before that but it wasn’t until that year that I felt brave enough to seek help. Back then, getting help for my mental health was a little simpler than it proves to be now. Just like a lot of things in college, it was simpler because I had my mom to help. Now that I am an independent adult, all of my health issues are legally my responsibility. Ironically, that just adds to my stress instead of easing it.

When I was going about my college search, I paid some attention to the mental health resources available at each school, but information was not always readily available to be a deciding factor. I knew I loved BU from the moment I set foot on campus and I was so overjoyed to discover that the resources I needed were not only available on campus, but were accessible and cheap.

I knew I would have to see a therapist when I started school and was preparing to contact Behavioral Medicine (more on that later) when I had to deal with a fairly traumatic event in my life. As a result of that, I turned to SARP, a place on campus dedicated to dealing with instances of trauma. SARP, which stands for Sexual Assault Response and Prevention, is located in West Campus. Although it is a branch of Student Health Services, it operates independently: it’s in a different building altogether and you book appointments directly through them. The moment I set foot in the SARP facilities, I felt comforted. The space is a comfortable temperature, there’s coffee, tea, and water for your wait, and, the best part, in my opinion, SARP is home to Auggie (pictured below). Auggie is a Boston terrier who is currently going through training to become an official therapy dog. All dogs, in my opinion, are therapy dogs but apparently, there’s official programs and certificates needed to make it official. Besides Auggie, though, there’s another comforting figure at SARP: my therapist. She’s the fourth or fifth therapist I’ve ever had and the only one I’ve been happy with and have continued to see for more than a few scattered weeks.

Going to therapy was helping manage my emotions to a point but I still had difficulties managing my day to day emotions and not just handling long term issues. After discussing this with my therapist, she recommended me to my second resource on campus, Behavioral Medicine at Student Health Services. They describe themselves as being “available to address the many psychological and adjustment issues that arise in a university community.” At Behavioral Med, I see a psychiatrist who I enjoy seeing as much as my therapist. After an initial session, she explained to me that she was prescribing Zoloft to me as a way to help me get a handle on my day to day anxieties. At first, I was afraid to start the medication. I was worried that I would lose my sense of self after I’d heard stories from my friends that they had encountered online or through some other equally weak source. I spoke with my doctor and therapist, though, and I felt comfortable enough in their hands to start the medication. They saw me through the initial adjustment period of the medication and they helped me deal with the changes in doses I experienced during the next few months.

Although the anxiety surrounding my personal life had been eased, I found myself struggling with the stress of my academic work. First semester I had fallen behind but somehow managed to make my way through and finish with a solid GPA. Second semester, though, caught me way off guard. I went into this semester expecting everything to go perfectly, but that was far from the case. In fact, my anxiety go so bad that I ended up dropping a class midway through. Not only did I find academic support in my professors, COM advisors, and peers, but I found yet another resource on campus. I attended LEAD, an academic support group on campus. I only went a few times, but I found it to help me find ways to manage my workload and learn strategies for planning and organizing how to tackle my work. The group also helped me find peers that were dealing with the same issues I was and we built an informal group of sorts to help each other.

So, the moral of this (very long story) is that no matter how insignificant you think your problems are, they are far from that. And no matter how overwhelming they can seem, you will never have to deal with it alone. Whether it be support from your peers or a psychiatrist, there are plenty of resources online to get you the help that you need.

Daera: Surviving 8 AM’s

My first college schedule was awesome. I got my mom’s approval on it, which is kind of a family tradition. When she went to college, my grandmother put her schedule together in the most magical way: my mom was done with classes by noon and had Fridays off. The first time she told me about that schedule, I knew I had to follow in her footsteps (I have a tendency to follow in my moms footsteps which is why I debated becoming an English major for a while and why I played the flute for seven years, but I digress).
My schedule first semester went like this: Monday and Wednesday I had class from 8-10, Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30-12:30 and Friday from 8-11. This semester it’s almost identical, except for the fact that I have class from 8-11 Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It’s really not as bad as you think. To prove it to you here are my top 3 reasons for taking morning classes and my top 3 tips for surviving them.
Why I Take Morning Classes…
You can use morning classes as a way to go to bed early without seeming weird for not being as social as other people. I don’t know about you but I love sleep. Like if I had to choose between money, chocolate, and sleep, I would probably choose sleep. Most doctors recommend that at my age, we get about 9 hours of sleep and I follow that rule. I am in bed by 10pm and let me tell you it is great. If you’re like me and miss using the excuse “my mom said no” to get out of plans, you can now just say “sorry I have class in the morning, I need to go to bed” and nobody will question you! (It’s also a great way to keep yourself on a healthy sleep schedule but that’s not as important)

You have the rest of the day to yourself once you’re done with classes. No more rushing to fit in meeting with your teacher for office hours in between your busy schedule. You have time to seize the day! Last semester, I was always free for lunch plans. Literally always. Plus, you can do your homework during the day while your friends are in class and use the night to binge watch The X-Files before it goes off Netflix. (More information coming about managing your homework during the day)

It gives you a reason to get out of bed and lets you have the day to yourself without feeling overwhelmed. I deal with some fairly severe anxiety and it’s often really difficult for me to find the motivation to get out of bed. Even if I didn’t have anxiety, I would struggle to find the motivation to get started with my day with enough time to get ready and be productive even before I need to go to class (especially in the winter when it’s cold and windy). Having morning classes forces you to get started early, and then carry that motivation throughout the day!

…And How I Survive Them
I am not ashamed to embrace my love of napping to motivate myself to go to class. Sure I wake up early, but I can catch up on sleep later. Yes, napping can sometimes be a way to avoid work and can be considered a bad use of your time, but when I take a nap during the day I always feel like I can manage it because of how much time I have left in my day. Why not take a nap from 11-12:30 if I still have hours of free time afterwards.

Try to stay active and stay as far away from your dorm as possible. Your dorm seems like the perfect place to study, right? The quiet study area is just close enough for you to go back and grab materials you may have forgotten but far enough for you to avoid the comforts of your bed…at least that’s what you think. The reality is, you need to get yourself up and out. I like to take everything with me for the day and not come back until I’ve completed a certain amount of things. Sometimes you need to go grab food or go to FitRec to work up some energy, but that’s okay! I live in Kilachand Hall, all the way and East Campus, and I try to walk at least to the School of Theology Library to get some work done. If I’m feeling really motivated, I go to the 26th floor of StuVi or the College of General Studies Lounge and I take a walk through Brookline on my way there; that way I’m getting outside and getting exercise, but I have a stopping point.

Stay organized as much as possible. Lay out your clothes the day before, pack your backpack, and set as many alarms as possible. My alarms go off in 15 minute increments from about 6:45 to 7:30 and I’m not ashamed. It does help that my roommate is either never there when I wake up and when she is, she is a very deep sleeper. Even if I don’t find the motivation to lay out your clothes, at least have a rough idea of an outfit you could put on so you’re not scrambling. The most useful thing I can suggest, however, is to pack your backpack the night before and charge your computer. You’ll thank me for that one.