Homesickness in College: Hope for International Students

Erin Caswell | 9-20-2017

I attended an international student orientation recently at one of our client schools, Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa. Diana Jones, the Director of the Intercultural Office, opened the orientation by asking the international students how many were homesick and why. 

For a moment, no one raised their hand.

Then a male student shyly raised his hand. He said he enjoyed being at Graceland, but he hadn’t been home in two years. That first domino had fallen. Hands started going up. You would think these students would miss family and friends, but other things started being revealed as well.


How International Students Deal With Homesickness in College

One student terribly missed the food from back home. A female student missed her Latin music and dancing weekends with friends. Another missed driving a car due to his license not being valid in Iowa. These students can only work on campus while attending college, so it made sense that a male student missed regularly working a job and being productive outside his academic classes. Another male student missed conversing in his Peruvian Spanish dialect. By the end of the session, 100 percent of the students had volunteered experiencing some sort of homesickness. These results fall in line with a recent study conducted by YouthSight (and released by the Nightline Association) which shed some surprising light on what international students face.

As this continued, my heart just broke more and more. Some of these students literally have oceans between them and their families. I’ve been at LewerMark for six years and this conversation opened my eyes to the challenges these students face above the more obvious ones of missing parents, siblings and friends.


Help Your Homesick Students with 24 Hour Counseling Services

Diana Jones asked about homesickness in college because she wanted to loop the students into the benefit LewerMark provides through our partnership with Morneau Shepell. The My Student Support Program (My SSP) provides students with 24/7 access to support and the platform, which integrates with existing campus resources, connects students to professionals and counselors who speak their native languages and understand the unique cultural challenges faced by students living abroad. Immediate support is available in six core languages, and ongoing support is provided in more than 60 languages via app, chat, web, telephone and video.


Additional Benefits of our International Student Support Program

My SSP covers services not often found in traditional health insurance packages for international students such as:

  • Students struggling with peer pressure, loneliness, stress, depression, and anxiety
  • School-related stress including debt advice and management that can occur from tuition and other expenses
  • Students trying to balance multiple responsibilities while experiencing a new culture
  • Students coping with bereavement, harassment, eating disorders, substance abuse, gambling, domestic violence, and gay/lesbian/gender issues
  • Students dealing with pregnancy and childcare issues

My Student Support Program complements existing student counseling services and other resources. For example, we offer 24/7 access to counselors to provide live support outside of traditional campus counseling service hours, which includes multiple languages.

  • A 24/7 free, confidential counseling service toll-free phone, e-mail, or instant messaging
  • Face-to-face and/or online counseling services in multiple languages
  • A multidisciplinary network of expert counselors who can identify presenting problems or needs

Resources for Students Homesick in College

There are many online sites that offer advice to students to combat homesickness. Here is a sampling:

Ithaca College Homesickness Guide 

Tips for Dealing with Homesickness 

Kaplan’s Homesickness Tips

As great as these online sites can be, they can’t replace a sympathetic and understanding counselor. Not every international student may need to tap into his or her health insurance when studying in the states, but it sounds like from my recent experience at Graceland University, almost all international college students could benefit from at least an understanding voice.





Author: Erin Caswell

Erin is Assistant Vice President of LewerMark Student Insurance division. Erin has a degree in Education and worked as an instructor before joining LewerMark more than six years ago.