Beating the back-to-school blues


It seems like just yesterday that spring quarter finals wrapped up and dreams of summer became reality. Whether you spent your days working, traveling or simply de-stressing from past academic trials and tribulations, they flew by as we find ourselves once again at the start of another fall quarter. While it’s an exciting opportunity for a fresh start, getting back into the swing of things can also be overwhelming for a number of reasons. For some, it’s their first encounter with independence as they move away from home and begin their first year at DePaul. For others, it’s their last stop before true adulthood as they prepare for graduation. No matter what may be causing your back-to-school blues, here’s a bit of advice to start the quarter off on the right foot.


Gina Orlando, part time faculty at the School of New Learning and certified holistic wellness coach and consultant, said taking time to recenter yourself can be as easy as remembering to breathe.

“Often, when stressed or fearful, your breath becomes shallow and it signals your nervous system to go into fight-flight-fright,” Orlando said. “Allow yourself to think more positive thoughts about your homework and responsibilities.”


Make goals and stick to them

Dr. Jocelyn Carter, associate professor and director of clinical training at DePaul, said sometimes students try to take on too much at once and often don’t have a set plan of execution.

“It would be helpful to think about what has kept you from being successful with those goals in the past, what has allowed you to be successful with those goals in the past and identity small steps that you can take to achieve one or two goals,” Carter said.


Unplug from your devices

Orlando said electropollution coming from electronic devices is “a major stressor” that can “create anxious feelings” and recommends occasionally unplugging to focus on the present.

“Even a several-minute nature break is revitalizing and resetting,” Orlando said. “Notice how your mind and body calms down. Your focus will improve wonderfully. This is so inexpensive, effective and easy.”


Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Chandler Hayes, a junior resident adviser on the Honors Floor in Clifton-Fullerton Hall, said that all students should look to the resources DePaul offers to help in the process—especially for students struggling with the transition.

“University Counseling Services (UCS) is a great resource, especially for those leaving their home therapists and looking to transition to someone here in the city,” Hayes said. “There are a lot of wonderful support systems and even confidential resources here on campus. Use them.”


Make time for fun

Orlando suggests “taking a humor break” to recharge.

“This is cheap, natural medicine,” Orlando said. “You’ll be amazed how laughing lifts you, relaxes you and improves your focus and mood.”

Spending time with friends is another way to help any overwhelming feelings. Callahan said she always makes time no matter how busy she gets during the school year.

“If I make plans on a school night, that will motivate me to get my homework done quickly if I know I have something to look forward to later,” Callahan said. “Having rewards like that throughout the week is how I stay on top of things.”

Keep your schedule handy

Jessica Nalupta, a sophomore, said she keeps two copies of her schedule until she gets adjusted to her new classes.

“I post the written copy in my room, so I can see it before heading out,” she said. “Then I use the digital copy as my lock screen until I have it memorized.”

Sophomore Kara Callahan invests in a planner to write down assignments in course-specific syllabi.

“That way I can take things by the quarter and not necessarily just week by week. It also helps me prioritize my time,” Callahan said.

Get involved

Xitong Li, international engagement peer adviser, said the first step to overcoming her homesickness was getting involved with organizations on campus. She said it was overwhelming going to the annual Involvement Fair for the first time, but it helped her make new friends.

Fernanda Sasian, an international student, said stepping out of your comfort zone and “appreciating the opportunity you have” is especially important.

“Be grateful for all the people that got you here and supported you,” Sasian said. “Challenge yourself to discover new things in the city. It doesn’t matter if you go on your own or with your friends.”

Utilize the International Student and Scholar Services Office

The International Student and Scholar Services Office (ISS) offers services to aid students in being successful in every part of the transition. Li said hosted  events “not only connect students to other international students, but domestic students as well.”

Alyssa Geonanga, a sophomore international student, used many of the resources provided by ISS her freshman year.

“What I appreciate the most is the International Student Experience Exchange (ISEE) Peer Mentor Program,” Geonanga said. “It pairs student mentors with incoming international students to help them achieve academic success, social competence and to facilitate smooth adjustment into the DePaul community.”

Try the Quick Coherence® Technique

Orlando said one of the best resources for aiding in such a transition comes from the Heart Math Institute — a resource also utilized in DePaul’s Stress Reduction Using Spirituality and Humor class.

“This heart-opening technique is helpful for homesickness, too,” Orlando said. “When opening your heart in love and gratitude, beam those feelings to your family and feel them coming back to you, too.”


Stay in touch with family and friends

Hayes said the easiest way for her to overcome her homesickness comes from simply keeping in touch with her friends and family.

“The more you allow yourself to stay connected to those and that which is important to you, the easier the transition it is back into college life,” Hayes said. “Connecting with folks in your community that may be from similar areas as you can also help ease this a bit. So, give your parents a call, FaceTime your pet back home and talk to your RA or another trusted person in your life when you’re struggling.”