Homesickness in International Students

The transition from living at home to college is looked upon as a positive event in a student’s life. Along with this new environment comes a loss of the old and more comfortable surroundings. Homesickness is a separation reaction akin to grief, where the individual concentrates on what is missed from the old environment. Homesickness can be defined by a sense of loneliness, depression, emotional distress and a preoccupation with and longing for home.

This separation reaction can lead to a lack of concentration and ability to perform, along with absent-mindedness and cognitive failures and can affect nerves, sleep, concentration, appetite and general health.

It is a real manifestation of feeling ill and anxious. Therefore, homesickness can ultimately influence a student’s level of success in adapting to his or her new life. Recently, homesickness has begun to be studied as one of several acculturative stressors impacting individuals who experience cross-cultural transitions.

International college students experience homesickness than American students do; because International students have trouble adjusting to their new surroundings, primarily because of culture shock, which stems from confusion about the norms of the new culture.

Many college freshmen cannot handle the extreme change from living at home to their independent life in the dorm. These students begin to long for the comforts of home and their life becomes a cycle of going home and wanting to be at home.

Leaving family, friends, and a home culture in pursuit of an academic opportunity abroad, international students frequently find themselves simultaneously grieving for missed persons and places, building new social networks, and adjusting to new cultural and environmental demands.

Top Writers
Tutor Janice
Verified expert
4.9 (549)
Sweet V
Verified expert
4.9 (984)
Doctor Jennifer
Verified expert
5 (893)
hire verified writer

In one study, region of home country accounted for 11. 4% of the variance in acculturative stress scores of students from Asia, Central and Latin America, Africa, and Europe. Data suggest too that the more differences between international students’ home and host cultures, the more homesickness and acculturative stress experienced.

Accordingly, Asian international students consistently report greater acculturative stress than European international students in the United States. Despite those statistics, Asian international students may not be the regional group most at risk for homesickness. In a study of more than 430 international students at American universities, African students reported significantly more acculturative stress than either Asian or Latin American students. African students also reported more depression and more self-concealment behaviors than the other groups.

Based on this study, African international students’ cultural backgrounds may place more value and emphasis on close interpersonal relationships than American culture—and that possession of communal and interdependent self-concepts may engender homesickness. The negative effects of homesickness on psychological wellbeing have been well documented. Homesickness negatively impacts the academic performance of college students, and excessive acculturative stress can contribute to eating and sleeping problems, low energy, and headaches. Getting involved in college can solve homesickness for college freshman because they can make friends.

One of the main causes of homesickness is loneliness. The first year of college can be a lonely time; but if a student gets involved they can meet many new people. Homesickness is greater in students who are socially anxious and have trouble making friends. These students suffered greater homesickness because they had no confidence and would not go meet new people. Students that made friends had little signs of homesickness and had a far better experience in college. A student that moves to a new place to attend college will not have all of their friends from high school.

In the new college environment, a freshman can find it hard to make friends but getting involved will give them a place to get to know other students. A freshman can choose an activity that they enjoy and meet people who have the same interests as them. Getting involved in an activity that interest the student gives them an opportunity to make friends in a setting they are comfortable with. The activity gives the freshman a way to begin conversation with new people and know that these people will be interested. Being with students of the same interest gives the freshman more confidence and allows them to be themselves.

Since colleges and universities are actively recruiting international students, there is a real need for student affairs personnel, faculty, and staff to be aware of the special needs of these students, especially since their numbers continue to grow. According to, often they are treated as if they were just any other college student. Many cultural differences exist that make it difficult for the international student to communicate their problems to the university officials, which in turn maximizes the situation for all.

The most obvious problem that is experienced by international students is that of communication. Although most schools require a certain proficiency level in English as measured by the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) that is not always a good indicator of the student’s ability to function in the classroom. Often the students have trouble with the difficult technical vocabulary that is necessary for some of the courses that they must take. But communicating in English is just one of many difficulties that the international student must negotiate when beginning studies in the US.

International students must also learn to adjust too many cultural differences that are compounded by being far away from family and friends. Many of the students experience feelings of fear and anxiety when they first arrive. These are not unlike those of freshman students who are away from home and living in an unfamiliar place for the first time, but are more intense. For the American student, these difficulties are not as extreme because they have not been placed in a situation where their framework for evaluating and perceiving their world has also been replaced.

The newly arrived international student must confront a variety of problems: many arrive without any idea of how to open a bank account or write a check; they have little experience with the new currency and must learn where to purchase items necessary for survival such as food and household items; they may not have a car and must learn how to use public transportation; and often must learn how to find a place to live if they are not going to use university facilities.

For the incoming freshman, these too can be daunting tasks, but at least they understand the system and procedures involved and also have the benefit of speaking the language well. One of the biggest problems facing college freshman is homesickness. It could bring an end to several students’ college experience because they could not get the help they needed. The students had no way to get help for their problems and nothing to do to make them want to stay. The solution to homesickness is getting involved.

In getting involved a student will make friends, get support, and stay busy. All of these will allow the student deal successfully with their homesickness and enjoy the exciting college experience.

Works Cited

  1. Poyrazli, Senel, and Marcos Damian Lopez. “An Exploratory Study Of Perceived Discrimination And Homesickness: A Comparison Of International Students And American Students. ” Journal Of Psychology 141. 3 (2007): 263-280. OmniFile Full Text Select (H. W. Wilson). Web. 19 Apr. 2012.

Cite this page

Homesickness in International Students. (2016, Oct 22). Retrieved from

Homesickness in International Students
Are You on a Short Deadline? Let a Professional Expert Help You
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7