The Quad: Bruins navigate homesickness, growing pains and culture shock at UCLA
(Anagha Srivatsav/Daily Bruin)
By Nora Farahdel
March 3, 2023 3:45 p.m.
For some Bruins, freshman year of college may be full of excitement with new people, new places and an entirely new lifestyle. But for others, a certain feeling can trump others – homesickness.
Homesickness is a common phenomenon among college students. According to the National Library of Medicine, 19% to 70% of college students were experiencing homesickness in their first year.
Lily Rubin, a first-year human biology and society student, said she moved from Boston to Los Angeles to experience living in a completely different environment.
“I really wanted an adventure,” Rubin said. “I wanted to go somewhere far away from home because college was an opportunity for me to be able to explore somewhere new.”
However, Rubin said she experienced moments of difficulty while adjusting during fall quarter. Rubin added that she felt homesick especially when she was physically sick, seeking familial comfort while experiencing a fever. For Rubin, the feeling of homesickness only grew during midterm season, as it was harder to distract herself from the change.
Rubin was able to adjust and grow out of these struggles by allowing her life to find an equilibrium.
“I came into this quarter already knowing who my friends are, so that was really helpful because I wasn’t by myself anymore,” Rubin said. “I think I’ve found how to balance school and also my personal life better now that I have less to worry about.”
First-year labor studies student Maddy Gross said she traveled to LA from Long Island, New York, this past fall. However, Gross said the transition of moving to the West Coast was not easy, and homesickness was a huge factor in shaping the trajectory of her quarter.
“I think it was almost a shock that I was out here, and now I’m a six-hour flight from home,” Gross said. “It was just tough at first, and adjusting to the new climate, the new type of lifestyle and pace of everything was definitely hard.”
Erika Nguyen, a second-year human biology and society student, is halfway through her second year living away from her hometown in Connecticut.
Nguyen said she was excited about starting her college journey at UCLA and was optimistic about this new change in her life. However, her first year was riddled with growing pains.
“Adjusting to college itself was pretty difficult,” Nguyen said. “I’m sure adjusting to any college anywhere would have been just as difficult, but when you add the long distance on top of that, it was just another stressor because the West and East Coast are very different, so it was almost like a culture shock for me.”
For some Bruins, homesickness may stem from other factors besides a strong longing for one’s hometown.
Like Rubin, Nguyen added that she felt the most homesick when she was struggling academically or emotionally.
“It just came in waves,” Nguyen said. “It was hard for me to decide, was I homesick or was I just trying to get used to the new environment? And was I just grieving over the fact that I wasn’t in the place where I grew up and where I was most comfortable in?”
Nguyen said the anxiety she felt was more about adjusting to this new phase of her life rather than feeling homesick.
“Once I realized that I didn’t really miss home, I just missed being where I was most comfortable, I used that knowledge moving forward. And I was like, okay, I was just really vulnerable and uncomfortable with being in a new situation, but I didn’t really miss home itself,” Nguyen said.
For Nguyen and Rubin alike, returning to Westwood with a friend group and staying busy with extracurricular activities helped ease their transition back to college.
“Having that strong foundation of what I built through freshman year, I was able to get out of my comfort zone more and meet new people and join more clubs,” Nguyen said.
Oftentimes, homesickness affects first-generation students specifically.
Graduate student Rocio Burgos studies the transition to college for first-generation college students and the cross-cultural value conflicts they may encounter as a result. He said first-generation students often find conflict between missing home and wanting to help their family members, and prioritizing themselves as college students through academics.
“The main thing that I look at is first-generation college students, and they tend to come from a more collectivistic background which conflicts with the more individualistic values endorsed at the university level,” Burgos said.
As Bruins continue adjust to their new lives, Burgos added that students experiencing homesickness can make full use of technology to connect with loved ones far away.
“You might not be able to be there physically, but I think just a phone call away will just make it all better sometimes,” Burgos said. “Just letting the person know, ‘This is what I’m going through,’ talking it out with the person you care about that might not be there with you.”