Let’s say it’s Friday, and another weekend filled with friends, frat parties and University of Wisconsin football awaits. Or, for students who live mere hours away from campus, it’s a welcome chance to go back home.
Given that 68% of this year’s freshman class is comprised of Wisconsin residents, it’s common practice to take a break from academics and campus life to return to the comfort of home. But while this weekend respite may seem like a good idea when college becomes overwhelming, leaving the campus and dorm life altogether may actually prevent first-year students from becoming fully acclimated to living on their own.
For freshmen living in dorms, leaving for the weekend prevents a student from getting better acquainted with their floormates and even the city of Madison. According to author and psychologist Michael Thompson, what seems like a brief escape from college-related stress can actually have a “regressive effect,” ultimately disrupting the student’s commitment to college as they juggle their social life on campus with frequent family visits.
UW freshman Sophie Hicks said after seeing her family this past weekend, while she missed and looked forward to seeing them, she felt the reunion came too early in her college experience.
“One needs to have a longer period to adjust to being at college before they see their family for the first time,” Hicks said.
Freshmen are still getting accustomed to life at UW, which means figuring out how to balance a social life with schoolwork, as well as trying to remain in touch with family and friends at home. For those who return home frequently, Hicks said, “You’re still going to be in the ‘at home’ mindset and you’re not going to be fully present at school.”
UW freshman Lindsey Miller, who lives only an hour and a half drive away, felt similarly after briefly returning home this weekend. While Miller hadn’t felt homesick this past month, she did start to miss home more when she actually went back and saw her parents in person.
“It felt so normal,” Miller said. “I started to feel really homesick at that point.”
After having seen them this weekend, she did admit that she now feels inclined to see them more often given how comforting it was to go back. But Thompson said the ease with which a student might fall back into their routine at home can prevent college life from becoming the new normal.
For students like myself whose families are a flight away, the lack of opportunity to see relatives outside of scheduled breaks and holidays forces us to immerse ourselves quickly in life here, so as not to feel so distant from our parents and home life. On the other hand, freshmen who have the option to return home periodically just don’t need to adjust as fast, because home will always be a quick car ride away.
Anne Isman ([email protected]) is a freshman studying economics.