Saturday, September 10, 2016

Homesickness as a Law Student


The first Friday of the school year around 2:30 p.m., I was sitting in the law school library at a study carrel, trying to get my reading done for torts, when suddenly I couldn't focus anymore. Instead of reading an briefing cases, I was actively fighting back tears and trying not to break down in the middle of law building. After about fifteen minutes of struggling to focus, I gave up, grabbed my stuff, and ran out to my car. I hard barely closed the door when I started sobbing uncontrollably. Phone in hand, I dialed my mom and when she answered I let all of my emotions out.

During that phone call to my mom, I told her I regretted everything; I said if I could go back in time six months and change my mind about going to law school and moving away, I would. My heart felt heavy in my chest, I hadn't been able to eat for days, and I spent at least an hour per day either crying or fighting back tears the entire first week of law school. The problem was not that I was scared for school, that I wasn't making friends, or that school was too hard. I was experiencing complete, debilitating homesickness. 

My undergraduate university was only an hour away from my hometown, so this isn't something I really experienced then. When I did my Disney College Program internship in Orlando, I didn't feel homesick because my best friend was with me. But a few weeks ago, I was sitting alone in my car 1,000 miles away from my home and my family, and I finally knew the experience that a lot of college students have at some point. And let me tell you, it was not fun. It's still not fun, because truthfully I am still working through it. But what I had to realize is that it is completely normal and it's going to be okay.

Homesickness is very real. It is a lot more complicated than just missing home, friends, or family; it's being completely and utterly consumed with the feeling that you have been removed from a place you considered home and from people you feel safe with. As someone who has never been controlled by my emotions in the past, it was an entirely new experience to have my emotions lead my life. I woke up every morning and instantly felt upset because I didn't wake up where I wanted to be. I spent my days studying in the school I had carefully selected and was so excited about just weeks before, but all I could think about was ways to get home instead. I looked up transfer requirements to schools closer to home, re-read my lease to see if there was a loophole to get me out of it so I could move back, and researched plane tickets throughout the day. I even created a countdown in my phone to the end of the school year so I could know exactly how much longer I had to live here. Overall, I was obsessed with missing home.

Fast forward three weeks, and I am finally feeling okay again. I still miss home, my friends, and my family and I talk to them every day. Sometimes, I still consider transferring to a school closer to home next year, and I haven't ruled out that possibility. But I am no longer crying each day, I feel comfortable staying here, and I can focus in class again. My first week of law school I experienced a sharp decline in my mental health - but now it is headed upward again.

So you might be wondering how I dealt with this homesickness, and how I felt better again. The first step was the phone call home to my mom - admitting that I was having a problem and that I was not doing okay like I wanted everyone to leave. I needed someone to know that I was having a difficult time, someone I could talk to in order to get through it. It was such a relief to get the weight of having to pretend I was okay off of my chest, and it was the first step to feeling better.

Second, I made a few plans. My best friend made plans to come out and visit me, and I made plans to go home over a weekend in the middle of the semester. I was able to create a new countdown in my phone, and having to only wait six weeks to see my friends and family was a much easier pill to swallow than waiting until Christmas break. These two plans instantly lifted my spirits and gave me something to look forward to.

Third, I took time to myself and just let myself be sad for a minute. I spent a day curled up in bed watching Netflix and crying. It sounds pathetic, but watching my favorite TV shows curled up in a blanket from home gave me the comfort I needed to get through the sadness. I also put up pictures of my friends and family in my room, and took comfort in some of my things I brought from home. I even changed my phone background to a picture of my little sisters. I'm a true believer that the little things can make a real difference.

Lastly, I tried to start taking it one day at a time. Day by day, week by week, month by month, I will get through feeling upset. Trust me, you're not the only one feeling like this. Most law students are going through the same period of incredible change that you are, and are struggling just as much as you. Feeling homesick is normal and natural, but it won't last forever. So just take it day by day, and every single day will get a little easier. 

As Dorothy said, "There's no place like home." I still miss back home every day, and I call, text, or Snapchat everyone from my hometown on a daily basis. Slowly but surely, I am starting to create a new home here though, and each day is getting easier. So if you are feeling homesick, it's all going to be okay. You're going to be sad, there will be good days and bad, but eventually you will get through it and each day will get better and better.

I promise.

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