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Students create new home

Originally published in the North Texas Daily on October 25, 2010.

For students like business freshman James Untiedt, the transition of moving to Denton was a big one. New city, new home, new people, new freedom.

“It was just a very hard adjustment because now I have to do things all on my own,” Untiedt said. “I’m not used to being away from home and all of the familiar things, but it’s exciting.”

But in addition to coping with all the new aspects of the transition to college, students have quickly realized the harsh realities of homesickness.

“I get homesick when I think about my parents, brother and kitten,” broadcast journalism sophomore Adrienne Copeland said. “I know that they miss me – especially my dad. I miss being home and the normality of being home. It’s a lot easier this year, now that I have closer friends.”

Although social work sophomore Dana Heidkamp misses her parents, she said she doesn’t feel like she would rather be at home.

“We are very close,” Heidkamp said. “Sometimes it gets hard without the physical proximity. But I acquired a new home here and I’m comfortable.”

Counselor John Hipple believes being homesick is a natural part of a student’s life.

“I think it’s really common, especially in the first half of the first semester,” Hipple said. “There are so many changes and they’re leaving everything familiar. They’re having to, in a sense, start all over again, and that can be very overwhelming to some people.”

Although accounting freshman Rui Huang is a 16-hour plane ride away from her home, she managed to adapt quickly to her new environment.

“I’m a very independent person,” Huang said. “All of my friends have helped me adapt to the American life and the distance from home.”

Huang said she lessens her homesickness by living through her fellow students and their families.

“The only times I get home sick is when there is a festival in China,” Huang said. “In the Chinese culture, Chinese festivals are meant for families to get together and celebrate the holiday and have a good time. Now that I’m so far away, I can’t go to any of the festivals. But seeing students with their families helps me to cope with it.”

Hipple believes getting connected with the community and peers can help students manage their homesickness levels.

“I think you need to have a goal of making UNT and Denton your home,” Hipple said. “That means that they have to learn the community and take steps to be a part of it. A lot of students go home and try to have one foot at UNT and another in their home, and that can be very difficult. But the main thing is to get involved and get connected with your environment.”

Copeland said she plays video games, reads, or watches movies to keep her mind busy.

“Movies always helped, and now this year I hang out with my friends every weekend,” she said. “Let’s just say my homesickness has gotten so much better this year.”

Heidkamp believes it’s OK to be homesick because almost every student goes through it.

“Just call home as much as you can,” Heidkamp said. “Don’t go home every weekend, though, because it won’t feel like you actually live here. You won’t have the chance to make the necessary connection with people outside of class time.”

Hipple said the best thing to do is have a positive attitude and a willingness to work through it.

“Don’t cut off all of your ties to home, though,” he said. “Just make home your second order of business and UNT-Denton your first order of business.”

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