5 Ways to Ease Homesickness

Homesickness can be one of the toughest, most unexpected challenges when you’re new in college. It can really happen to anyone, even if you’re just one city away from home. 


Homesickness feels a lot like like anxiety or depression and usually happens when we feel disconnected from familiar people and places. There are lots of ways homesickness can present itself but the most common symptoms are comparing your old setting with the new one or wanting to call home frequently. You could also have trouble sleeping or eating, feel nauseous, excessively sad or sluggish. 

It’s important to be able to enjoy your college experience! Not everyone’s process to overcome homesickness may be the same, but here are our best suggestions for dealing with these feelings:

Join a club to meet people.

PSU has your back with over 200 student clubs and groups! From a neuroscience club, to Greek life, to Acapella groups, you will definitely find a group of people with shared interests. The website also has links to volunteer and service opportunities if you want to go beyond campus. When you’re feeling down, it’s important to branch out and talk to new people! Even if it’s difficult, and especially if you don’t feel like it. The more you get out there, the more chances you’ll have to meet new friends. 

Visit SHAC.

All students enrolled in at least five credits can visit the Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC). Counseling Services offers brief individual and group counseling, crisis/emergency services, and workshops throughout the year to support your transition to PSU. Getting help is a really smart and brave thing to go. Actually a lot of students experience homesickness, so you are not alone. Definitely consider visiting SHAC for other health and wellness needs, too, from health and dental check ups, to acupuncture, to scheduling a time in the Mind Spa, which features a massage chair, light therapy and biofeedback games to help you relax.

Distract yourself!

One of the best ways to get yourself out of a funk is to just focus on something else for a little while. Go to the library to study rather than your dorm room, or go for a walk, or check out a new coffee shop, or visit a thrift store. There are unlimited things going on in the city pretty much all the time, you just have to get out there. The 5th Avenue Cinema is a student-run cinema that shows FREE movies for PSU students. The PSU Farmers Market is every Saturday, rain or shine, right on campus at the park blocks. The more places you go, the more people you will meet, and the more chances you’ll have to make friends. Our Visitor Guide also has tons of student-recommended activities (a bunch of them free or discounted for PSU students), restaurants and other cool spots to visit.

Visit the Campus Rec Center.

When you’re feeling bad, it can sound really tempting to loaf under a blanket and dig into a massive tub of ice cream, but this will likely only make you feel worse. To combat this, get some exercise to get those endorphins flowing, our body’s natural feel-good hormones. I always remind myself that the hardest part about going to the gym is just getting dressed and heading out the door. The Rec Center also makes it super easy and convenient to get a sweat going, with all kinds of fitness options, including an Olympic size pool, a hot tub, cardio and weight rooms, and a rock-climbing wall! They also offer a wide range of group fitness classes, including yoga, cycling, and Zumba. If you want to get started but are not sure how, there are also educational classes like lifting and rock climbing for all skill levels. Exercise is so good for our well-being. It has been shown to improve sleep, build confidence, tone muscle, and help with anxiety and depression.

Do you also like getting exercise outdoors? Spending time in nature reduces anxiety and depression and it can be fun to go on an adventure. Our Outdoor Program offers guided hikes throughout the state with a 50% discount for students.

Talk with friends and family back home.

This is an important step. Talking with your loved ones can help you feel more connected and loved. They will want to hear all about your new adventure here. And this is a great time  to ask for a care package including anything from home that would make you feel more comfortable, like photos or blankets, or even a stuffed animal (hey, no judgement here). 

However, just keep in mind that it’s important to not over-rely on your family and avoid your new world. If you notice that you’re spending more of your time talking with people back home than exploring your new environment, you will only prolong these bad feelings. You should set up a weekly time to call or FaceTime back home. This will help you create the space you need during the rest of the week to connect with your life at PSU and gives you something to look forward to.

BONUS tip: Talk to a Professor or Staff Member.

PSU faculty and staff are sympathetic and they want to see you do well here! Do you feel particularly fond of one of your professors, or another staff member like a Resident Assistant? These people are good to reach out to and are here to help you. For so many things, the stress that comes with big changes can be managed by simply talking to someone about what is on your mind. There is a good chance they have also experienced some kind of homesickness at one point and can give you some tips to get adjusted, or even just an open ear to hear you out.

Remember that it’s normal and common to feel homesick during your college experience and that it’s okay to miss home. These feelings normally pass on their own over time, but if they don’t pass or even get worse, there are resources here for when you need the help. Who knows, maybe when you return home you’ll be homesick for Portland! 

PSU Admissions Myth vs. Fact

The sheer amount of info surrounding the application process can be overwhelming, to say the least. To help you sail smoothly through the process, we have set course to debunk some of the misconceptions about admissions and student life at Portland State. Let’s drop some truth bombs.


Myth: I need to write a personal essay to apply to PSU.
Fact: PSU does not require an essay or letters of recommendation to apply. Admission is based on GPA and test scores for high school students, and college GPA for transfer students. However, students do need to write essays to apply to our University Honors College as well as some scholarships, so sharpen your pencils.

Myth: I have taken college-level courses in high school (things like Running Start, Early College, etc.). So I apply as a transfer student, right?
Fact: Regardless of how many college credits you have, if you are still enrolled in high school and have not yet graduated when you apply to PSU, you will be considered a freshman applicant. You will only be required to follow Freshman admission requirements, and the college-level credits will be transferred to PSU should you be admitted.

Myth: PSU will only accept test scores sent directly from SAT or ACT.
Fact:
We understand that officially submitting scores can be costly and time-sensitive. As a result, PSU does not require test scores to be submitted through the organizations who proctor the test. All we need is for the test scores to be reported as part of your high school transcript. Talk to your guidance counselor if this is something you would like to do, and relax, we have it covered.

Myth: PSU does not allow students to take a gap year.
Fact:
Exciting news! We have recently developed a policy for gap year students! This new policy allows eligible students to defer their admission for one year. Check out the eligibility requirements to participate in this new program.

Myth: It is always less expensive for a student to first attend community college and then transfer to a four-year university.
Fact: 
It depends. Research shows that students who start at a four year school are more likely to graduate in four years, but that’s not always the best option for people. Our admissions counselors are here to work with you to determine the best route for you whether that means starting at a community college or coming to straight to PSU from high school. PSU understands the transfer student experience. In fact, 58% of our student populatation transfered here. 

Myth: Incoming freshmen are required to live on campus at PSU.
Fact:
Campus housing at PSU is always optional.  41% of incoming freshmen and 51% of students from other states choose to live on campus. Most of our international students also live on campus. Living on campus for your first year is highly encouraged, and is guaranteed for any student who applies before May 1st. We are pretty proud of our Residence Life program here at PSU. In fact, students who participate in our Living Learning communities typically have GPAs a whole point higher by sophomore year. Many of our students choose to live at home or off-campus. We are happy to work with you to find the best housing option for your situation. 

Myth:  Freshman courses at large public universities usually have over 100 students.
Fact:
The average class size at PSU is only 35! It’s the relationships that form in the classes that really matter. At PSU, you’re not just a number. With the small class size, along with a student to faculty ratio of just 20:1, means that you can get important personalized attention from professors who care about your success.

Myth: PSU doesn’t have the campus life other large public universities have and is only a commuter school.
Fact: We’ve got a lot going on at PSU and the Viking Pride is strong! We have more than 200 student clubs, 15 NCAA Division 1 sports teams, club sports teams, 10 Cultural Resource and Resource Centers, Greek Life, a student newspaper, a student run radio station and movie theater and so much more. We guarantee that every student will find something to be passionate about on campus. Go Viks!


We hope that demystifies at least some of the questions you may have about applying to Portland State University, but if we missed anything feel free to reach out to your PSU Admissions Counselor and they will get back to you pronto!

Trading Deserts for Forests to Study Film

Fernando Gomez on PSU campus

Finding the perfect college match can be as much about the city as the school. Fernando Gomez had his heart set on Oregon, someplace vastly different from his Arizona home, so he traveled around the state to check out different universities. But his love affair with Portland began when he toured Portland State’s campus.

A new transfer student in the School of Film, Fernando knew going to college in a city with a large art scene was a major factor in his decision.“I wanted a change, and Portland is a 180 degree difference from the Phoenix metro area. The weather is cool, the city is culturally diverse, and it’s cheaper than all the other big cities that would allow me to study film.”

When Fernando decided to transfer from Scottsdale Community College, he considered schools in different states, but he was on the hunt for something in Oregon. It was only after he realized PSU checked everything off his must-haves list that he found out about the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), a resource that makes getting a degree more affordable for out-of-state students from participating states. “I found out about WUE after I was accepted to PSU. I got a call from one of the admissions counselors, who told me I qualified. I’ve always been a full-time student, so it’s necessary for me to find ways to pay for school. I knew I wanted to attend PSU, so WUE was just a bonus!” Qualifying students pay 150% of resident tuition—for the 2018-19 academic year, that’s $13,107 compared to $27,437 for out-of-state tuition.

Fernando keeps costs down by living on campus. He doesn’t need to worry about paying for gas, parking and upkeep on his car because everywhere he regularly goes is in walking distance from campus. He also likes how many opportunities there are in downtown Portland for people interested in film, like the 5th Avenue Cinema, a student-run cinema on campus that’s free for PSU students. “I’m always getting emails from the School of Film about internships, film festivals and film scholar talks. I was getting these emails long before I got here, so I already had an idea about the film culture in Portland.”

And the film program makes it easy for its students to get involved and get hands-on experience. “PSU has great equipment available for students.” Fernando frequently checks out equipment and treats the city as his subject, capturing video for class projects. “I go walking or running downtown to take video of things that interest me.”

Fernando likes that the film faculty have real-world experience—his faculty get him access to many people who work in the film industry. “My professors are very accredited, more than the ones I had back in Arizona.” Even though Fernando is older than the traditional college student, he has connected with people in his cohort too. “A couple guys came up to me early on, and we’ve been working together ever since. We have the same goals and mindset despite being different ages.”

Though this is Fernando’s first term at PSU, he’s already found his place. Portland is his education and inspiration.

Want to start your own love affair with Portland by attending PSU? Discover how you can make that happen.

Find out more about WUE and Fernando’s experience on our dedicated blog.

The Guide to Campus Life for a Successful 1st Term

Campus Housing

For many students, moving into a dorm may be their first time living on their own. Here are a few of the Orientation Team’s tips to make that transition less overwhelming, and will make it much smoother.

Communicate

Swap school and work schedules with your roommate as soon as possible. The better communication you have with your roommate early on, the better your relationship will be throughout the year.

Know your Neighbors

Make an effort to know your neighbors. This may be easy if you are living on a First-Year-Experience floor because you will have a year-long class with the people on your floor. Knowing the people living near you may just get you an automatic study group and you all can watch Netflix and play video games later.

Connect to Home

If this is the first time away from home, it may be a good idea to have a conversation with parents or loved ones back home about making scheduled time to call or text. For many parents, not knowing what their student is doing and having poor communication may stress them and their student out. To avoid over or under communication, scheduling a weekly check-in may be helpful.

Know your Skills

The first time you go grocery shopping for yourself, you may feel the urge to test your inner MasterChef. Take it easy. A common problem for students is buying a huge amount of groceries their first week that ends up expiring before they can use it. Most dorms only allow microwaves so maybe for special occasions, you could try out some of these mug recipes.

Sleep

Get acclimated to your new sleep schedule during Viking Days. You will thank yourself later.


Read about more resources in our blog about ways to ease homesickness on campus.