The Catholic University of America

 

 Adjustment to College 

Why am I not enjoying the 'best time of my life' yet?!

Leaving home and attending college can be filled with new challenges and increased responsibilities, including:

  • Increased freedom and new responsibilities
  • Changes in relationships with family, friends, and significant others from home
  • Time management
  • Making new friends
  • Roommate relationships
  • Decisions related to dating
While some students are fortunate in making an easy adjustment to college, for a multitude of reasons, not all transitions are easy for everyone. Often, even the most exciting and positive events in our lives carry with them significant stress in times of transition. You may notice thoughts and feelings such as the following:
 
  • Why is it taking so long to make friends? Who here will share my interests?
  • How am I going to manage my work load?
  • I’m not feeling connected to CUA. Why am I not enjoying the “best time of my life” yet?
Many of these kinds of reactions are perfectly normal. We often forget that our routines and support systems that served us well in the past took years to grow and develop to our satisfaction. It would be unrealistic expect everything to “click” right away. It may be best to allow ourselves time to adjust and re-evaluate what we might be able to do to help in the meantime.


Homesickness

Being away from home for the first time can be difficult for many of us. While some students seem to jump headfirst into new experiences and opportunities at college, many other students can experience a sense of loss and emotional distress in creating a “new home” for themselves at college. The adjustment can be challenging, especially as we say “goodbye” to the close, easy contact of friends and family and embark on creating a new support system while at college. This can be even more difficult for international students, non-traditional students, or those also adjusting to a new social and cultural climate at college.

What does homesickness look like?

  • Feelings of sadness or loneliness
  • Sense of loss
  • Frequent thoughts or worries about important people back home
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Feeling more vulnerable than usual
  • Feeling unsure if you want to make friends or set up roots at college
  • Experiencing otherwise manageable stressors as much harder to deal with
  • Questioning if you have what it takes to succeed on your own
  • Questioning if going away to college was the best decision
  • Missing the comforts of home (meals, laundry, advice, easy social outlets and support)
  • Feeling “out of your element”
If you have experienced any of these concerns, the good news is that you’re not alone and homesickness typically fades with time. While homesickness is often temporary and, in most cases, occurs over the first few weeks away from home, some students experience feeling homesick later in the semester, especially after long absences from loved ones or upon concluding brief visits over weekends or holidays.
 
Often, joining social groups and finding connections on campus can help ease the stress of homesickness. However, it can take time to become comfortable with your new surroundings. We often forget how long it took to create our friend groups at home, so patience is key. Good self-care (sleeping, eating, exercise, and relaxing activities) is essential and finding some support during this process can make a huge difference.


Loneliness

What Does Loneliness Mean?

Practically all of us have felt lonely at different points in our lives. At college, this experience is very common, especially if we are just getting started at a new environment. Thus, many students may fear they are not making friends quickly enough and may question how they will ever feel connected on campus. The experience of loneliness is different for different people, although common themes include feeling: 

  • Unappreciated, unwanted, or undesirable
  • Excluded or alienated from others or activities
  • A lack of support to discuss your concerns and experiences
  • Stuck being alone and pessimistic about improving your friendships
  • A perception that others seem to be “happy” and “have it all figured out”

Negative Impact of Loneliness

Because social connection is such a key part of our feelings of happiness and self-worth, people may experience depression, worry, and other negative psychological symptoms if lonely for prolonged periods of time. Loneliness may also contribute to:

  • Low self-esteem or feeling “not good enough”
  • Self-criticism or self-blame for difficulties connecting
  • Self-consciousness and assuming others simply do not want to get to know you (even if you have not really “put yourself out there” to make friends)
  • Withdrawal from potential social opportunities
  • Feelings of isolation, sadness, and anger 

Easing the Adjustment 

Recognize what is happening to you – chances are, it may be a normal reaction. Try talking about it with people close to you (at home, at CUA, or elsewhere)Think about what you can do differently. What haven’t you tried?

For suggestions, try out some of these strategies:
 

  • Plan out and begin to establish routines – know that you may have to adjust these over time
  • Reach out to others in your residence hall
  • Consider joining various campus organizations or clubs
    (one place to start looking is https://cua.campusgroups.com/home)
  • Adjust your expectations/timeframes
  • Find room in your schedule for a healthy diet and regular exercise
  • Think back to how you’ve coped with similar situations in the past
  • Try to think more positively – often, this leaves us more open to positive experiences
  • Use campus resources, including the Counseling Center