R.A’s advise cure for homesickness
Gretchen Burns | reporter
Shannon Jesberg, junior in social work and resident assistant (R.A.), knows that for most freshmen living on campus it will be their first time away from home and homesickness is likely to happen.
R.A.’s like Jesberg are trained to take care of their residents who become too homesick.
“When a resident comes to me and is homesick, it usually just helps to let them talk about their life at home,” Jesberg said. “It’s really important for me to be someone to listen to them and let them talk as much as they want to. It helps to listen because it helps build our relationship and make them feel comfortable talking to me, but it also helps them deal with homesickness by telling someone else about their family, friends, home life, etc.”
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Amelia Brightwell, sophomore in nursing, says she didn’t deal with homesickness during her freshman year, but has learned to cope with it during her sophomore year.
“Last year, I had a friend who lived on the same floor as me who went home quite a bit and I rode with her a lot of the time,” Brightwell said. “This year, I don’t get to go home near as often, so I text my mom a lot more than I did last year. Going home has become a special treat.”
Stephen McTeer, senior in communication and R.A., takes a different approach when dealing with a homesick resident.
“I try to figure out what kind of interests they have/had in high school and try to connect them to one of the 150 or so campus organizations,” he said. “Having other residents on the floor involved in the same club can really help get them to get involved and invest in being here.”
Kyle Murphy, senior in physical education and R.A., says once an R.A. has talked to a resident who is homesick it is important to keep an eye on that resident so that depression doesn’t become a factor.
“Homesickness can lead to depression and depression can lead to suicide or other negative impacts,” he said. “It is the R.A.’s main responsibility to try and see any precursors of those progressions so they can intervene early before it becomes a major issue.”
Jesberg says each situation of homesickness is different and there is not a specific set of rules to follow when helping a homesick resident.
“In the past, I’ve mostly dealt with residents who are homesick because they are in long-distance relationships with a boyfriend from high school,” she said. “You have to deal with it differently if it’s a resident who comes to you and talks about being homesick vs. a resident who you notice is going home every weekend but doesn’t talk to many girls on the floor.”
When reaching out to homesick residents, R.A.’s try to remember when they were freshmen and factor in those experiences while taking care of an issue.
“I always use my own experience helping out with homesickness because I remember what it was like being away from home for the first time and not knowing anyone,” McTeer said. “Before I was at Pitt, I was four hours away from home and wasn’t able to go home at all and I got a little homesick so I know how it feels and residents connect with that.”
R.A.’s are given two weekends off per month and find ways to fight off their own homesickness.
“I feel like I’ve been blessed with an awesome housing team,” said Nikki Stone, senior in communication advertising. “They treat everyone like a family which really makes Pittsburg feel like a home to me.”
Kathryn Lauber, sophomore in nursing, has learned from experience that making friends can help to keep homesickness away.
“The most important thing I learned from last year was to make your own group of friends at school cause they start to feel like your own little family when you’re away,” she said. “This year, I haven’t really felt too homesick because Pitt feels a little bit more like home now.”