Here’s what they love—and don’t love—about being back.
by Priscilla Blossom
Going away to college is a huge feat for young people. For many, it’s their first prolonged period of time away from their families and hometown. Not only are they juggling challenging classes and learning in a wholly new environment, but they’re also learning how to be totally responsible for themselves. There are no parents helping out with laundry or meals, and no one reminding them that it might be time to get some rest before school. There’s a ton of growth that happens in that time.
But one thing many don’t consider is the way these same college students feel once they return to their family home in the summer. “Students face a multitude of challenges when returning to their hometown after a year away at college,” says Helene D’Jay, executive director of young adult services for Newport Healthcare in Connecticut. “[They] must quickly adapt from their college routines back to family life, moving back in with their parents and now having college friends hours away and missing their independence.” Additionally, D’Jay says that because students return feeling more self-sufficient, with new and different priorities, there may be struggles as family members adjust, with both sides potentially having “some unexpected feelings.”
So, how are America’s college students faring this summer upon return?
For some, being back home has its perks
“I’m definitely enjoying the classic things a college student misses at home,” says 19-year-old Jordan Shumate, who just completed her freshman year at Tulane University. Shumate, who lived in a dorm on campus, says she’s enjoying having a car to drive herself around again, as well as having easy access to laundry facilities.
Toby Winick, 18, says he’s happy to not have to share a bedroom or communal shower now that he’s home for the summer. “The living conditions are more comfortable,” says Winick, who attends a private university in Massachusetts. His sister Samantha, who just returned from her freshman year working on a double major in neuroscience and psychology, feels similarly.
“Having my own room and space is definitely something I took for granted,” she says. “It’s nice after having a long day to come back to your own room and have alone time, which is something you don’t get living in a dorm with a roommate.”
Not getting to enjoy family gatherings was something that 19-year-old Zoey Touray says she missed the most while away during her freshman year at North Carolina A&T State University.
“Calling my mother for Easter, and hearing my extended family in the background was harder than I expected,” says Touray. “I also missed rituals like family movie nights.”
Nearly everyone who spoke to Yahoo Life also mentioned how happy they were to finally eat in their family kitchens again. “I appreciate the food,” says Aimee Errington, a 19-year-old chemical and biomedical engineering dual major at Colorado State University. “Don’t get me wrong, college food is great, but homemade meals are definitely a luxury I never realized.”
But there have been some definite growing pains
Shumate says it’s been a bit of an adjustment being back home and having some limitations on what she can do — like going out at night without giving it a second thought — but that life hasn’t changed too drastically.
“It is definitely weird to not be in dorm life anymore,” says Shumate. “I haven’t really spent as much time partying as I’m used to.”
For many, like Touray, being back home still leaves them feeling out of place.
“I got to school, and got used to being able to go out whenever I like. Spend time with friends, without having to ask permission, and play my music as loud as I felt, and not have to worry about waking anyone up,” she says. “Being back for the summer is different because I share a room with my younger sister. I have other people to think about in the vicinity.”
And others, like Sam Winick, say they’re realizing how much college has become so integral to them.
“It felt a little weird to come home after a full year of college,” says Winick. “I realized how much of my life was [now] centered on my studies and the activities I participated in.”
How to handle the transition
As with any household issue, D’Jay says communication is key for students returning home.
“Prepare by having open conversations with family about upcoming plans and expectations for moving back home. It will be easier to create a seamless transition,” she says, recommending that parents and students get on the same page about things like chores, curfews, house guests and other potential pain points to prevent disagreements.
“Students should recognize and accept that their lives are temporarily going to change from what they have been used to for the past few months,” adds D’Jay. Part of growing up is being able to adapt to new environments and the rules that come with that, like not having rowdy friends over when parents or siblings need to get some sleep.
But while some rules may be non-negotiable, D’Jay says parents should remember that their child is now a young adult.
“Your child has adapted to an independent lifestyle for months by now,” says D’Jay. “Respect is a two-way street, so treat [them] as the emerging adults they are by respecting their independence and [reasonably] adapting to their new routines and ways of life.”
That means being more flexible on at least some rules, especially if they were things that the students were already doing on their own while on campus.
D’Jay also reminds college students that they aren’t alone in this situation. “Talk with friends about the transition and any challenges, and they might be able to give some helpful tips,” she says.
And finally, families should enjoy a bit of structure with this new temporary living arrangement to create new routines that can have a positive impact on the household.
“There is no reason to fully abandon any new family routines or habits, but find ways to incorporate your college student into them,” says D’Jay. “College gives students structure with classes, extracurriculars and work, so students should try to initiate some kind of structural routine into their day. If that means daily breakfast or dinner with the whole family, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Originally published on Yahoo! Life.