International students find ways to make campus feel like home


Courtesy of Jennifer Li

Freshman Jennifer Li poses in Taipei, Taiwan. She discusses her homesickness on campus in her first year in New Orleans.

Many students find themselves missing home when they come to college. According to College Factual, 11 percent of students on campus come from other countries, making homesickness hit a little harder.

Jennifer Li is a freshman at Tulane. She was born in Los Angeles, but a couple years later her parents decided to move to Taiwan. Li still lives in Taiwan and returns home twice a year, once during winter break and once during summer break.

Courtesy of College Factual
International students by home country

“Near the end of October, I felt like everybody was just making Thanksgiving plans, and it just kicked in,” Li said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, fuck that. I just really, really, really want to go home at this point.'”

Despite the support of her family and many of her friends, Li said her homesickness made her feel isolated.

“There were some friends that were a little bit distant to me, especially the few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving when I was just, like, broken,” Li said. “I broke down all of the time, and I was in a bad mood all of the time. They really didn’t know what to do.”

Lisa Wang, a sophomore from Beijing, has not been home in nine months. She, along with other international students unable to go home over the winter, stayed in Butler House over winter break. She said the difference in food contributes to her homesickness.

“Generally I’m not so homesick, just maybe sometimes,” Wang said. “Especially the food in China. That’s really different from the food in America, and we don’t have so many Chinese restaurants here in New Orleans, so I really miss the food that my parents cook.”

Li also said she misses the comfort and quality of her food from her home.

“Sometimes it’s like, ‘You know what, I can’t eat the food here anymore. I can’t. I just want to go home so I can eat good food, like, food I’m more comfortable with,'” Li said.

Her friends sometimes take her to Asian restaurants in New Orleans, which she said helped her combat homesickness.

Li and Wang both said they believe connecting with friends is important to combating homesickness.

Fostering this community is an important step toward supporting students who may be experiencing homesickness, according to Donna Bender, the director of Counseling and Psychological Services.

“We have also been talking with some student leaders about the importance of growing a ‘community of care’ on campus through encouraging students to be more supportive and welcoming to one another, strengthening connections and feelings of acceptance for all students,” Bender said.

In the fall semester, CAPS holds a Freshman Transition Group to help freshmen navigate the transition to college and address anxieties, including homesickness. An experienced therapist leads the group.

In addition to the counseling CAPS provides, the university has other resources. Li recommended talking to a residential advisor or finding another student experiencing something similar.

According to Wang, on-campus organizations can also help connect students to aspects of their home they may miss.

“There are many Chinese students in our school, like there are 40 sophomores that are Chinese … We have a lot of organizations, and we are friends to each other, so maybe the homesickness is not so strong,” Wang said.

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