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From Palm Trees to Autumn Leaves: How to Navigate Being Away From Home For The First Time

As a lifelong California girl, I always dreamed of venturing out of the cozy border of Southern California, but I never expected it to actually happen. Upon the arrival of my acceptance letter to Boston College, however, it soon became clear that the next four years of my life would be far from the hip and sunny surfer culture I had grown accustomed to. Instead, I would be shipping up to Boston.

Adapting to a new environment as a college freshman is rarely easy for anyone. In fact, it is quite normal for it to be arduous and strange. For myself, going from the bounds of home to BC was not easy. Being among Lululemon and Canada Goose while I was adorned with thrifted skirts and handmade hippie tops, I felt a bit too similar to Elle Woods upon her arrival at Harvard in Legally Blonde.

Yet, with all the new lovely things I have been able to experience—a real fall, BC football tailgates, the T, Dunkin’ Donuts, Red Sox games, North End cannolis, and more—I still found myself stuck in a rut of homesickness.

If you are a freshman or any student feeling homesick, here are a few things I recommend to navigate the weird juxtaposition of missing home and loving where you are now.

FaceTime Friends and Family

The one thing I have always been able to rely on when I miss home is my phone. FaceTime allows you to see the faces of the people—or even the pets—you miss. I can’t count how many times I have called my mom and asked her to bring my cat up to the screen just so we could see each other’s faces. FaceTime is one of the best options because it serves as a reminder that your loved ones still love you even if they’re not physically near you.

Eat Something Reminiscent of Your Hometown

Whether you’re from Southern California and miss the excessively fancy health foods or are from Texas and miss your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, I highly suggest finding a place in Boston that reminds you of one of your favorite restaurants at home. For me, Playa Bowls, right across the street from Lower Campus, makes me feel like I have transported 2,500 miles to my favorite açaí bowl shop next to the beach. The minute I go in I feel a little closer to home, and the homesickness hurts a little less.

Listening to Music You Associate with Your Hometown

Growing up in a place that was summer year round, playing warm weather music was essential to my upbringing. It connects me to the days I would spend with my best friends blasting our music on our way to the beach. Now, I find a bit of nostalgia and comfort in blasting it, even though my scenery has gone from a beautiful blue ocean in my yellow Volkswagen bug to autumn leaves and the Newton bus.

Comfort TV Shows and Movies

It’s no question TV can be a comfort. Personally, I have always identified people in my life to characters in TV shows or movies, and the movies we love can model the life we have or hope to have. Growing up with a huge, quirky family, Modern Family was always a staple in my household to laugh at. I can recall countless times we spent watching it. Now, even 2,500 miles away, it still feels like I’m with my loved ones.

Moving away from home and adjusting to the stark difference in life as a college freshman is undoubtedly a difficult but necessary journey. Even if you grew up dreaming of leaving your hometown, hating everything about it, the minute you leave you realize the little things you loved. I hope these tips serve as a reminder that while you miss where you’re from, it will always remain a part of you and that we can always find comfort in the present.

November 16, 2022