USA TODAY High School Sports asked some of the top female college athletes from different sports to give their advice to high school girls on a variety of pressures they will face in the coming years. This is the third of a nine-part series in conjunction with USA TODAY High School Sports’ Girls Sports Month.
Wednesday, May 7: Recruiting
Thursday, May 8: Parties/social scene
Tuesday, May 14: Homesickness
Thursday, May 16: Relationships/dating
Tuesday, May 21: Classes/homework
Thursday, May 23: The off-season
Tuesday, May 28: Social media
Wednesday, May 29: Lifestyle/nutrition
Thursday, May 30: Most important advice
Advice on homesickness …
Caitlin Leverenz, senior, California, swimming
“I don’t get homesick much at all. My school is my new home. I think that is important to keep in mind when choosing a school. I don’t go home much at all. I do go home for holidays and important events. I am fortunate that my family has been able to visit me in Berkeley, or travel with me to big meets so I get to see them all then. I stay in touch through the phone or through Skype mostly. I Snapchat my two sisters all the time! I don’t believe that athletes should base their college decision on how close it is to home. The school you choose should become your home.
“I would say usually the first month or two of college is exciting and most students don’t need their parents as much, but then when reality sets in it might help to have a mother-daughter weekend.
“Non-athletes have much more freedom in their schedule to go home for a random weekend if they feel like it. My team quickly became my family to help me with any homesickness. Non-athletes don’t have a family like that, so we are fortunate in that way.”
Katie Reinprecht, senior, Princeton, field hockey
“I live a little over an hour away from Princeton. I actually thought I wasn’t going to like being that close to home. I wanted to completely branch off and do my own thing. But now, I am so happy I ended up close (to home). Initially I thought, I didn’t want to be attracted to go home while I was at school. I wanted to immerse myself in the experience. But Princeton is just far enough where you don’t go home all of the time, but if you really need to it’s nice to have that outlet – and I have a car on campus so I can drive home if I need to relax. So I think in that sense I have kind of the best of both worlds.
“In the beginning it’s pretty tough. It’s very natural to become homesick – you’re in a new environment that you’re completely uncomfortable with. It’s natural to want something that is comfortable and the first thing that comes to mind is home – but once you get through that first couple months, you’ll be amazed how much easier it gets.
“Being an athlete – you are so busy and you are into the season and the craziness of it, and going through it with a bunch of your teammates – it helps get through it all. I’m so happy that I had my teammates my first semester at school – it made it a lot easier of a transition into college having the upper classmen help me and guide me through thte process, and get familiar with everything around campus and how the school functions. I thought it was super helpful and definetly kept my mind off of being at home.”
Nicole Gibb, junior, Stanford, tennis
“My sport (tennis) is a little different than a lot of sports. Tennis is very travel heavy. Even in high school. I was missing 40 days or more of school per year. So when I went to college it wasn’t that much of a shock. I was used to being away from my parents. It was definitely a transition – maybe a little anxiety about the idea of actually living alone – but I think being an athlete honestly prepares you for that transition better than almost anything going into college. It’s a natural transition and not particularly difficult for most athletes.
“My family – we’re not a family that requires talking to each other every single day to function – that’s never how we were. It has been pretty natural for me to be away from them – to not call every day. I definitely call to update them once or twice a week. But it’s not something that I prioritize over what’s happening at school – I think that’s important sometimes – it can be a pretty big stressor when you try to fit everything into your day and then on top of that you are like “oh my gosh, I need to call my mom about this.
“You immediately have a new network (as an athlete) when you come to college. You’re not the freshman who is like ‘I wonder if I’m going to make a single friend’. You already have your teammates you’ve met.”
Christine Nairn, senior, Penn State, soccer
“A lot of college athletes are used to missing out on a lot of stuff. I’m missing my brother’s graduation, I’m missing my friend’s birthday party – you’re missing all these things. But if you’re homesick and you’re close enough to home, your parents will make it (to your games). There are times that you can go home – whether that’s during fall break, or if you have Thanksgiving off, or Christmas off – there are three- to four-day breaks during the semester where, if you want to get out to go home, you can.
“We actually had two girls from England and one from Hawaii on Penn State’s team. And also another girl who is from California – so the good thing is, there always is going to be someone who is in the same boat as you. You’re not by yourself. Teams who enjoy being around each other will welcome you with open arms, and take you in.
“The girl from England came to Thanksgiving with me a couple years. The Hawaiian went to Thanksgiving with other girls on our team – so, I know we take pride in making sure we are all OK and taking care of each other.”
Noora Raty, senior, Minnesota, ice hockey
“It was definitely hard at first when I came here (from Finland). I didn’t speak much English. I could pretty much only say ‘How are you’ and ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Family here is so much bigger than it is in Finland. In Finland, it’s seen as a good thing when you move out of your home and get out from under your dad and mom’s wings. I was a little bit homesick, but you get used to it. It got easier and easier every month.
“I would encourage getting as far away from home as possible. Before I moved here my mom made me food every day. She cleaned up after me. I didn’t have to take care of pretty much anything. And here I had to learn how to take care of myself on a daily basis. It was definitely a big change. You grow as a person so much when you’re out on your own. And that prepares you better for life after college.”