Character U Captain Helps Others Fight Homesickness
Diya Stephen ’25 was excited to leave her home in California to earn a degree in medical studies at DeSales.
Through conversations with current Bulldogs and a tour of the campus, she felt she had a good understanding of the amazing things she could expect once she began her academic journey. What she didn’t anticipate—experiencing homesickness.
“The first couple of days I was fine. When my parents left, I thought ‘This is great! This freedom is amazing!’ A month in, it started to hit. I missed home, I missed the people there, I missed the weather.”
Stephen quickly realized she wasn’t alone in feeling this way. That’s why she worked with Shalynn Slozer ’23, a business administration graduate, to develop the Home Away from Home program in the fall of 2022.
From getting involved on campus and figuring out your happy place to avoiding comparison on social media, the annual event provides students experiencing homesickness with practical tips on how to combat the complex emotions that come with transitioning to college.
“A lot of people experience homesickness, but most people don’t post about it. They only focus on the highlights of their lives,” Stephen told the crowd at this year’s program. “It’s not embarrassing to be homesick.”
Stephen shared that getting involved in Character U and the Campus Activities Board helped her adjust to college life tremendously, along with visiting places like Starbucks that she’d also frequent at home.
“Having to go from living at home with people you have known all your life to suddenly living with a roommate on a campus and people you barely know is difficult,” she said. “It is always nice knowing that you are not alone in feeling homesick and that there were people before you that have experienced it and come up with ways to overcome it and succeed.”
From offering cookies to a free movie ticket raffle, the Home Away from Home program is more than just an annual discussion on ways to cope with this new season of life. Stephen has created a cozy and safe environment in which students can make new connections and strengthen existing bonds.
When they weren’t sharing laughter or listening intently to Stephen, attendees felt comfortable enough to ask questions like “How do you introduce yourself to someone you don’t know?” and “What are some good ways to enjoy holidays when you’re still on campus and everyone else has left?”
Nick Luchko, associate dean of students for engagement and leadership, hopes that DeSales will be able to offer similar programs in the future.
“I am very proud of Diya, and this program is exactly what we want our student leaders to do for others,” he said. “They have an idea, we give them that platform, and they succeed.”