Alyssa Harmawan is a freshman media studies major
My mom stayed with me in San Francisco for three weeks before flying back to Indonesia. After those three weeks, I was expected to immediately jump into orientation and feel at home in a foreign environment. Little did I know that the next month would be the biggest roller coaster of emotions — ranging from excitement to pure fear — that I have ever experienced.
Moving to a new country with no one I knew was a struggle. I grew up in Indonesia in a close-knit family with helicopter parents who never took their eyes off me, which made the transition to independence a serious shock. In addition to my family being on the other side of the world, I also have no high school friends in the area, which caused me to feel extremely isolated.
At the beginning of the semester, I felt like I was the only one suffering from homesickness. My two roommates seemed unaffected by being far from home, and looking around during new student orientation week, it felt like everyone else had friends and was comfortable with the campus except for myself — no one else seemed to be affected by the sudden change of environment. But thankfully, as time went by, I was lucky enough to find friends who I could find comfort in and relate to, even if they aren’t from home. My newfound circle of friends has helped me find belonging and settle in at USF.
However, a question that has lingered with me is why homesickness was never addressed in orientation, or mentioned to me by anyone on campus. During orientation, we talked about many important issues such as alcohol abuse, toxic relationships, and academic stress — but homesickness, one of the most common problems on campus, was not discussed.
Just a few days ago, nearly a month since the beginning of the semester, the Center for Academic and Student Achievement (CASA) sent out an email survey to new students about the impact different factors might have on academic success. The email mentioned how homesickness could impact an individual’s ability to succeed at USF, with a link to Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS). As much as I appreciate this, I personally find this outreach to come far too late. Seeing that I’ve been on campus for almost a month now, I am already past that stage. The worst is over; I would have preferred help in the beginning.
Homesickness is a barrier to a student’s success, as one could lose focus and their mental health may deteriorate. I believe it should be discussed more, especially since USF is such a diverse university. In fact, 14% of USF’s student body is made up of international students, meaning that 14% of students are probably in an environment that is completely foreign to them. Students should know they’re not alone and that they have people to talk to — resident advisors, academic success coaches, and CAPS are great resources for students to go to if they need help.
As a freshman at USF, I hope that others know that homesickness is not something to be ashamed of. My personal advice is to find more interests, such as spending time doing exercise and sports, or getting involved in clubs and volunteer work — try to find a community that might help with the dreaded feeling of experiencing longing for home. There are also numerous on-campus resources that can help, and you can always lean on family, friends, or others close to you, no matter how far away they may be. Most importantly, have fun and know that you should make the most of this incredible opportunity: being a college student.