By David Taylor, Dean of Spiritual Formation
Studies show that around the fourth week of college, many students deal with homesickness as they realize they won’t be home for annual family milestones like birthdays or other events. The initial excitement of the college adventure can lose its luster once assignments and exams begin to come due. Roommate personality differences begin to emerge. College athletes start to feel the wear-and-tear of a rigorous practice and game schedule.
Moving away from home and going to college is one of the biggest transitions of life, up there with marriage, changing careers, and retirement. So it is not surprising that students often experience heightened degrees of stress and anxiety as they navigate this change. As Montreat College’s director of counseling, Holleigh Woodward, wrote in a recent self-care article:
“Clinically speaking, homesickness is a form of ‘displacement’ or ‘adjustment.’ Some common feelings of displacement could include: anxiety, sadness, isolating behaviors, ruminating thoughts, and in more extreme cases, depression… At its core, homesickness is not always about missing the physical structure of home. It’s actually more about a sense of security and familiarity. After all, most students have just moved some distance from home, live in a completely new city, encounter stress that’s never been experienced before, and have to create new relationships from scratch.”
In order to support students during this transition, we’ve launched a new initiative called “Family Dinner.” We have invited families from several local churches to adopt students to have in their home, to provide a meal, allow them to do laundry, and offer a safe place of hospitality and warmth off campus. These families come with a desire to love students in the name of Jesus and be an encouragement to them during this challenging season of transition.
At the launch event during Welcome Week, over 120 new students signed up to be adopted. That number has since grown to over 150 students who are participating in the program with almost 90 families participating.
The initial testimonies from families and students alike are very encouraging. One family has care packages regularly dropped off at their student’s dorm room door. Another family reported having an excellent time over dinner and that the students in turn offered to help with yard work. Some churches have incorporated students into small groups so they are connected to a church community. Just this week, even more students emailed to request a family.
I’m grateful and excited to see the ways these families are ministering to our students. They are providing a hospitality that testifies to way Jesus welcomes us to come to him. My prayer is that students will continue to find safe places to rest and be cared for, and that new relationships will lead to Christ-honoring discipleship.