Moving away from home — away from familiar surroundings and established cultural norms — can be jarring. It’s easy to feel out of place in a new setting.
That’s how I felt when I first came to Occidental from my hometown of San Diego, despite being only two hours north of where I grew up. With my closest extended family located 15 minutes away from Occidental in La Cañada, I was already familiar with Los Angeles. I can only imagine the homesickness a student from across the country, or even across the ocean, might feel coming to this tiny school in one of the most eccentric cities in the United States.
You might not feel homesick. That’s normal, too. But if you are, here are a few pieces of wisdom I’ve accumulated over my past three years at Occidental.
The best cure for homesickness is leaving your room and getting involved, both on campus and off. Sign up for a club. Try out for a team. Audition for a play. Get an on-campus job. Go to a party, or four, or 25.
You are not the only one who is homesick.
“There were moments my first year where I really thought about how much time had to pass before I got to go home again,” Elliot Davis (junior) said. “I really relied on the friends I made and all the extracurriculars I did to keep myself busy and happy at Occidental.”
I’m not saying that you have to be the student body president who’s graduating cum laude and is also a star basketball player with a part-time internship in addition to having the lead role in a play — this isn’t high school. But if you feel like you have some stake in your community — whatever form that may take — the easier it will be to accept the community as just that: yours.
That goes for the city of LA as well as Occidental. One of the most diverse, creative, cosmopolitan and naturally beautiful cities in the world is at our doorstep here in Eagle Rock. Go out and explore; the more you immerse yourself in a new place, the less you’ll be able to focus on missing somewhere else.
But, if you need a small piece of home, you will likely be able to find that in Los Angeles as well, no matter where you’re from. This is especially true when it comes to food. This city may be far from perfect, but it is nothing if not cosmopolitan. The only Himalayan Restaurant in Southern California, Tibet-Nepal House, is located in Old Town Pasadena. Little Ethiopia, a neighborhood in the mid-Wilshire area, has half a dozen Ethiopian restaurants within a block of one another and regularly hosts cultural events. There is even a small Little Bangladesh district. Cultural centers and restaurants of practically every culture from around the globe can be found in and around the city.
If you are from another part of the U.S., LA has you covered, too. The city has teams from every major sports league and restaurants that serve regional foods such as Chicago deep-dish pizza, jambalaya and lobster rolls. I remember getting a warm-fuzzy when I found a California burrito (a San Diego favorite) for the first time.
Say none of that cuts it. You still feel lonely, you want to go home and you have no idea where to turn. You have tons of resources on campus, such as resident advisors (RAs), to support you through the most difficult moments of your college career.
“It’s every RA’s goal to make students feel like Occidental is their second home,” Haines RA Harper Hayes (senior) said. “We host programs that are catered toward our residents’ interests and work hard to establish personal relationships with every person in our hall. Our hope is that if residents are feeling homesick, anxious or just need a friend that they come to us so we can help make their experience as positive as possible.”
In addition, Emmons Wellness Center has excellent counseling services. Every student is allowed an intake session and six regular counseling sessions for free, and they are completely confidential.
Bottom line, if you feel homesick or are just generally having a tough time adjusting to college life, keep in mind that you are far from alone. There is somebody else in your class, possibly even from your hometown, feeling exactly the same way, and you have found a supportive community ready to welcome you with open arms.
Welcome to Oxy!