By Lydia Justine Keema, Higher Education Student Affairs ‘15
Being homesick is not just limited to first-time freshman but to graduate students as well. From my own example, I went from being 30 miles from home in year-round Mediterranean climate to 3,000 miles away and days at a time where there would be no sunshine. For new incoming master’s students I think one of the most important aspects to holistic health is taking into account the new changes in your environment. Some great ways to do this are through Live Well NYU and through various programs on campus. Ultimately, working through these adjustments will result in greater results for you in the long haul.
I was born and raised in California, growing up most of my life in the suburbs of San Diego County. During my undergraduate years I did not stray too far from home and decided, for personal reasons, to attend San Diego State University, the closest public university to my local Chula Vista. While I am very proud to be an alumna of my alma mater, I knew that part of me was dissatisfied staying in my comfortable environment instead of venturing out and testing a new experience. I told myself that if I was going to move on for graduate school, I would need to push myself to try something new. That plan began to be set in motion in 2011 when I met a recruiter from NYU Steinhardt. For the next two years I focused solely on preparing for the Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) program at NYU, the only graduate program to which I inevitably applied. This goal of moving to the east coast came to fruition just one year ago, when I accepted an assistantship and ultimately my spot in the NYU HESA class of 2015 cohort.
The move here was no easy matter, however I was steadfast in embarking on this opportunity. I have a child in grade school, so not only was this move going to be an adjustment for me but for him as well. Remotely, I searched for an apartment to live in that had easy access to NYU for me and to elementary school for him. This past summer I learned the headache that is Manhattan real estate. There were days that I was certain that this new experience would not occur and I would watch one of my biggest academic and professional moves slip through the cracks.
However, things began falling into place and I moved to the city in late August 2013. I truly felt so fortunate to be in the only graduate program I had wanted to attend, working at my first-choice assistantship, and living in one of the greatest cities in the world. As the semester progressed I felt unjustified to let the piles of readings, delayed and congested subways, or the first snowy days impact me because I had wanted this experience so badly, so surely there was no room to complain. However, with that mentality I was dismissing the fact that I had just made an extreme move with my little family and that it was okay to recognize that I needed to give myself time to adjust.
In my own example, my son and I moved away from family and friends, and yet I did not allow myself to feel homesick because I had made that conscious decision to move. I felt foreign to the city and like a stranger in my apartment, given its initial lack of feeling like a home. I had left behind the comforts of my old work environment, and while I intentionally chose a new environment to grow as a professional, working in a campus like NYU was an adjustment that I did not fully recognize. It wasn’t until early February where this all catalyzed and I fully reflected on my time here in New York and the new stressors I had added into my life. Something that I have learned from this experience is that, no matter how badly you want something, it is okay to admit when there is a rough adjustment with a new experience.