When I left for college, it was a big deal for my family. My older brother lived at home while he went to college, so I was the first one leaving home. Technically, my house in Chicago is just a 40-minute drive from Northwestern’s campus in Evanston, but it doesn’t always feel like I’m that close to my family. Some people want to go far from home when they go to college, but I was excited to share my college experience with them.
Since I am so close to home, I think my family expected me to spend more time at home on the weekends, but that wasn’t the case. I spent less time with my family because I was so wrapped up in my school work and student groups. It took some time to figure out how to balance my family life and school, but I’m glad I took that time to work on my relationship with them because now I feel closer to my family.
Here’s how I balance family and school:
Set expectations and follow them
I called my mom every day during my first few weeks of college. As time went on though, I only called her about once a week at random times that didn’t fit with her schedule. Now, every week I look at my schedule and give her a fair warning about when I have time to call. So, take the time to set up expectations because good communication can help strengthen your relationship with your family.
Send your family pictures
Send them pictures of your dorm, campus, lecture hall and food. When I left for college, my grandmother worried about what I ate in the dining hall. She said she likes it when I send her pictures of my food, so I try to snap photos of my meals.
Invite your relatives to campus
Every year, Northwestern hosts a Family Weekend, which is a weekend full of events for your family. It’s a great way to introduce your family to campus life. My parents, grandparents, brother, uncle and aunt came my first year. I showed them my dorm, where my classes were and my favorite spots on campus. For international students or someone with family in another state, this may not be an option. But if there’s a small chance, don’t pass up the opportunity to show your family your school.
Be present and cherish family time
During my first year, whenever I went home for the weekend I was usually distracted because I brought my school work with me. Now if I visit on the weekends, I try to spend one day doing school work and one day focusing on my family. But if you can’t go home on the weekends, just make sure to cherish every moment with your family during breaks.
My family is my biggest support system, and I don’t want them to feel like I’m excluding them from a major part of my life. I want to include them in my college experience as much as I can because I wouldn’t be at Northwestern without them. So, whether it’s your mom, dad, sibling, grandparent, or a legal guardian, be sure to include them in this wonderful experience.