Homesick: Effects on mental health when moving out

When we committed to UC Berkeley and submitted our first deposit from the warmth of our homes, what came to mind in regard to what we were expecting? The four best years of our lives with a dash of stress on the side but a whole lot of positive experiences to make up for that small downside? A new place to explore, new people to meet and new things to learn? 

Many students, however, may not have immediately thought about the process of leaving their homes, whether they’re from abroad, out-of-state or the next town over. This process may include sadness, depression, feeling powerless, sleep problems, tension, anxiety or fear of the forthcoming future. The list can go on and on.

A bunch of funky things happens to our mental health once our residential stability becomes unstable. When we first moved into our residence halls or apartments in Berkeley, it probably seemed to many that we had a handle on things and that independence was evermore appealing. A new city with bubbly and interesting neighborhoods surrounded the sparkling, new campus at its heart. The impending unfamiliarity and loneliness, however, was potentially around the corner.

First, it is important to acknowledge that moving, no matter where from, is an intense emotional experience. In fact, there have been numerous studies done that have focused on the psychology of relocation and the amount of stress that is induced by moving.

The stress that goes along with relocating yourself and all of your things in your adolescence is a big factor. Your belongings get placed in places where they aren’t usually found, “your” space becomes shared space and your lifestyle has to adopt a new schedule. This doesn’t even cover the pressure that builds when it comes to becoming familiar with larger classes, exams and our beloved CalCentral. You become vulnerable in a new home, a new school and a new job, sport or research position filled to the top with tasks and challenges that you have to complete before you get back into the swing of a life you consider normal again. Unfortunately, to add even more stress to the situation, we had to become competitive beasts to get these three things: housing, a spot at the school and any other positions we had to apply for to add to our resumes.

Putting the stress aside, it is also important to highlight the strain that is caused by both your mentality and emotions when it comes to all of your relationships when you move to college. When you move, you may become less attached to people and possessions. There are students that live a mere 15 minutes away from campus in Orinda or Albany that do not see their families all semester. 

The emotional turmoil others feel from the pain of moving from a hundred to a several thousand miles away causes tumult in the possibility of creating new relationships, and this is could be problematic because college is one of the stages in life in which the formation of new connections have the potential to last for your entire life. We start to disregard serious relationships, as we can constantly question whether they are even worth it since they are going to end anyway. Complications arise from us not letting someone get close to us because we already have too much pain to deal with that has been caused by distance.

Most importantly, we need to remember that all of this is normal. These thoughts, feelings, hardships and emotional turmoil are experienced by everyone at least once in their lifetime. We need to focus on the present fact that we are very lucky to be where we are and that there will be a positive outcome for every battle we have to deal with. 

All of the expectations we wanted to happen from the beginning when we committed will happen slowly but surely, and a much happier and opportunity-full side will be just around the corner. So if you know anyone who has moved, ask them about home even if they don’t show that they miss it. With some extra comfort food and talking, even stronger relationships will be built with an even more positive outcome that you may have expected.

Contact Anna Kurianowicz at [email protected].