Homesickness: A mental battle

Homemade stress balls are great for relieving that test time anxiety. Photo by Dylan Jones | The Signal

For the average person, homesickness is a problem they may experience from time to time. Whether it’s traveling abroad or attending college in a different state, the feeling of missing home strikes us all at some point.

For an international school such as Georgia State, this problem can arise far more frequently. With a majority of the sports teams consisting of international student-athletes, it is time to bring more awareness to a forgotten mental health issue. 

While homesickness is not classified as an illness, it can lead to depression and anxiety. For student-athletes, balancing a heavy practice schedule along with going to class can be tough; a strong mental state is crucial for their success. Any mental problems they could be battling with could affect their performance on and off the playing field. 

For women’s cross country runner, Marine Garnier, homesickness was an early battle for her.

“Freshman year was pretty tough; at some point [in] the semester when it gets to be three months you’re here, you’re far from home,” Garnier, who is from France, said. “You start to miss family and friends especially, as well as the food.”

The process of attending a school in a country Garnier is unfamiliar with added fuel to the fire.

“At the beginning, it’s pretty hard because we are young — we’re 18, and we [have] lived our whole life with our family,” Garnier said. “Suddenly, you’re on your own in a [unfamiliar] country.”

Luckily for this generation, we have the ability to stay connected with friends and family through the increase of technology. Many apps allow us to talk and see one another, from all around the world. 

The sophomore runner uses these apps to help cope with the feeling of missing home.

“I make sure to [FaceTime and Skype] my parents several times a week,” Garnier said.

Since overcoming these early struggles, Garnier has excelled in the classroom, making the President’s List in both spring and fall of 2019. 

As senior track and field standouts Lotte Meyberg and Angela Alonso prepare to graduate, Garnier will look to step in and continue their dominance.

While some athletes do feel the effects of homesickness, others do not. 

Sophomore tennis player Andreea Stanescu felt a very minor case of homesickness but still understands the severity of it.

“For me, it wasn’t a problem, but I’ve heard a lot about international student-athletes that miss home a lot,” Stanescu said.

When she made the tough decision to leave her family in Romania and travel abroad, the support from her family helped her drive and excitement for achieving her goals.

“I had support from both my parents; it wasn’t a very easy decision to make because I knew that when I leave them behind, they [were] going to struggle a little bit in the beginning,” Stanescu said. “At the same time, I was very excited to come [to Georgia State] and very happy to start.”

It is typically during the first few weeks where students tend to start missing home and developing mental problems. For Stanescu, adapting to a new lifestyle helped keep her mind busy with a busy schedule.

“[Homesickness] was not a problem for me. When I came [to Atlanta] as a freshman, everything was new to me,” Stanescu said. “But there were a lot of things to do: accommodations with housing, practices, meeting new teammates. So, I was very busy and very focused”. 

Luckily for the tennis player, her passion for the game kept her mind off of home. She shifted her focus to simply becoming the best student-athlete she could be.

“I think if you have the right people, the right environment, people you want to stick around with, work hard for your goals, [then] it becomes a little easier to adjust,” Stanescu said. 

Stanescu believes that student-athletes who struggle can actually use the issue of homesickness to propel them in reaching and achieving their goals.

“You’re going to miss your home regardless; it’s just how much you’re going to miss it,” Stanescu said. “[Either] it will drive you crazy or make you push forward, so I see it as a [way to] push forward.”

As mental health issues continue to grow around the globe, Stanescu knows the importance of getting help before it becomes too much of a problem.

“I think there are many ways to help students, even if it’s a friend, a counselor, a coach, somebody can give you help,” Stanescu said. “And [at Georgia State], I saw, in general, the staff really want to help and are more than willing to help find a solution.”

Georgia State athletes have shown the rest of the student body that, even though they can struggle with the negatives of daily life, anyone can overcome their issues and perform at their peaks in their fields.

All students are encouraged to seek help if they are dealing with any form of mental health problem. Georgia State offers counselors and advisors to students who may feel uncomfortable talking to a parent or friend.