Homesickness: A Parent’s Personal Journey

 

Professionally, I don’t do much writing, technical or otherwise. As a small business owner my writing skills revolve around proposals, estimates and budgets, none of which are very flowery or flowing. So, please bear with me as I do my best to write about this month’s topic.

I’ve always heard that it’s best and easiest to write about a subject that you know, so that’s why I chose homesickness. My daughter, who is a sophomore this year, went off to college and never looked back. She has always been a social young lady with a lot of friends. She’s well organized and skilled at scheduling social activities with sports and homework. My son, though not as well organized or as social as my daughter, has always managed to fit in wherever we have dropped him off over the years. The first day of camp, anywhere he went, he always had a friend by the end of the day…always. Going off to college was no big deal for either one of them. However, they were both close and could have come home anytime they wanted, which they didn’t…ever.

By now you should know that this story is obviously NOT about them.  I’m the one who got homesick when I went off to college, two-thirds of the way across the country and far away from comfortable, friendly New England. I wasn’t homesick right away, mind you, because I had a girlfriend that I moved to Colorado with the winter before. We spent half the winter being ski bums (what’s not to love about that!?), then went back to Maine for the summer. However, young relationships often come to an end and half way through the first semester at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, we broke up and for the first time I was alone. No friends, no family, no way to get home.

You see, I’m from rural Maine and while Fort Collins was not that large as far as cities go, I might as well have been in New York City. My apartment building, as I remember it, only had about a dozen or so units, so nothing overboard there. My neighbor, however, was a graduate student from India and he cooked at home all the time. The oils and spices he used produced an unfamiliar scent to my nose. Two-lane streets with cars and people everywhere; stores and malls were now minutes away instead of an hour. The foothills along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains with the wide open plains that stretch eastward for several states had no feel whatsoever of New England. In the fall, the hillsides were awash with yellow from the aspen and green from the pine trees, but no brilliant reds and oranges from the maples. Fall in New England is so beautiful. Needless to say, all of these made for a difficult transition to college life.

Damn it! I wanted to go home! But I couldn’t because I didn’t have any money for a flight or even a bus ticket. So, I kept going to school every day. In those classes I started talking to other students and making friends. The deep desire to go home began to weaken day after day. I started participating in other activities and going out with my new friends. Within a few weeks my homesickness was gone altogether.

Students may experience homesickness at different stages in their college career.  For some it’s when they go away to an overnight outing.  For others it may be during their first semester or year at college; while studying abroad; or while doing an out of state internship.  Yet for others like me it could be right after a breakup. Regardless of when it occurs, if your student is experiencing homesickness now, know that there are things you can do to help ease their ordeal. First, go visit them if you can but not often. It doesn’t have to be a long visit, just an hour or two. Take them to breakfast or lunch off campus and bring the family pet, if there is one. A well-timed visit or two may resolve the problem. Second, if a visit is not possible, encourage them to take advantage of one of the many activities available on campus, such as sports, music, theater, lecture series, etc. to meet people, make friends, have a good time and therefore taking their mind away from “HOME.” Third, be available to listen and offer advice if they ask for it. As much as you would want to fix things, remember that homesickness just like everything else in life is a process and a challenge that your student has to overcome. Constantly remind them why they‘re at college. If nothing seems to work, maybe a visit to the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health (CCPH) “Let’s Talk” session might be appropriate. By the way, they also have some great apps on their website, which I wish were available at Fort Collins when I was at college. These apps are designed to help students cope with stress or anxiety, find strategies to overcome challenges, promote mental wellbeing, and succeed in college life and beyond.

Following are a few helpful pages/links:

Center for Counseling and Psychological Health (CCPH) Resources
Campus Recreation
Student Affairs and Campus Life “Get Involved
UMass Events 

Ultimately, homesickness will pass and your student will become a better person and a stronger individual for it. I like to think my life turned out better and richer for seeing it through to the end.

Joel Lord is the parent of a UMass Amherst sophomore and a member of the UMass Amherst Parents Advisory Council.

Building Relationships with your Student: Food for Thought

 

Sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, sisters and sisters, brothers and brothers, mothers and sons, the list ofrelationship combinations goes on and on and yet there is no rule book to guide us through any of them.  We rely on our own upbringing, our past experiences outside the home, and advice we seek.

The college years offer us an opportunity to change our relationship with our students.  It also represents the natural change of distance from extended family our students once came to accept as regular visitors. Siblings who are close, feel loss.  Those whose relationships are strained may feel guilt over the relief of the sibling leaving for school.

One proven way to have a positive experience with your student is through lunch and dinner conversations.  Coming together to share food is a practice that has been around for years.  Through food we forge relationships, share stories, provoke laughter, celebrate successes, and overcome challenges. In other words, lunch and dinner conversations bring back for your student the vulnerability — as well as the strength — of their relationship with you in a safe, nurturing, fun setting.  Free from judgement, they can express their feelings about style, taste, texture, value, and authenticity. 

Regardless of our respective cultural backgrounds, the preparation and eating of food is something we all have in common with one another.  But food is much more than nourishment, it is the vehicle through which we communicate sentiments, express our creativity, and create memories.  And it is in the sharing of food with others that we stay connected.  There is almost always a story tied to food, and it is those stories that connect us.

If your child has a UMass Amherst meal plan, they have been exposed to many different types of food and cuisine.  This exposure makes them uniquely skilled in discussing food, good or bad.  Just eating their daily meals, they may have taken the opportunity to eat everything they were never served at home, or perhaps have never heard of. UMass Amherst dining is literally a trip around the world. In addition, Amherst is a land filled with one-of-a-kind bistros and cafes with world class original offerings.  Pick a cuisine none of you have ever experienced, or at least a few menu items.  Share your thoughts and opinions about freshness, preparation, presentation, and more.

My daughters, five years apart in age, recently returned from their first visit to Wildwood Barbecue in Hadley, MA, compliments of their Uncle Joey and Aunt Stephanie. As they poured into the house, giggling about their “sistering” experience, my husband and I asked how they liked their meal. “Well, the ribs reminded us of our Easter in Texas with Cousin Lisa’s family,” Crissy spouted. “We can see that the craft beers must have intrigued Uncle Joey – I think Dad would like to go there, too,” Sophia offered.  “Mom, you could bring your friend Carly there because they have a gluten-free menu,” advised Crissy.

All of their comments linked a part of the restaurant experience with someone in their lives. Food acts as a glue.  We can love food together, hate food together, try to avoid it together and indulge in it together. Most importantly, we can remember it together.

 JoAnn Roselli is the mother of a sophomore and a member of the UMass Amherst Parents Advisory Council.

Senior-Year Expectations

It seems like only yesterday that we were dropping off our son on his first day at UMass Amherst. My wife and I were proud but slightly nervous. Between his outgoing personality, friendly nature, and the many people he already knew on campus, we knew he’d adapt well socially. Our biggest question was about academics. Would he buckle down and do what he needed to do to be successful in the classroom? Fortunately, our concerns were quickly allayed that first semester, and he’s thrived academically and socially ever since. We can sit back and relax, knowing that he has much more time ahead to enjoy his UMass Amherst experience…

But wait. He doesn’t. We aren’t sure how it happened, but that young man — still a boy, really — is now a senior in college. Where did the years go? My wife and I are convinced that we haven’t aged, but one look in the mirror (at least for me, never for her!) says otherwise. 

As our son has grown and matured, in part because of his experiences at UMass Amherst, so have our hopes and expectations as he begins his senior year. We hope that he continues to have fun, makes new friends and enjoys all that the university offers. More importantly, we hope that he will continue to focus on his academics, in which he has clearly blossomed as a UMass Amherst student. This isn’t senior year of high school, where the dreaded (at least by us) senior slump was expected, if not tolerated. We’ve discussed with him finishing strong academically, both for his own personal satisfaction and in case graduate school is in his future. Along these lines, there are several academic tasks that we hope he will remember to do, including:

  • Meet with an advisor to be sure all requirements are met including GPA, number of credits needed for his school/college, General  Education, and his communication major 
  • Don’t look too far ahead. Make the most of the present and stay engaged
  • Continue to attend class

Similar to our hopes for our son, we expect UMass Amherst, as a strong institution of higher learning, will continue to thrive and support our son and all of its students, as it has since his first year. Communication from the school has always been regular and clear. Of course, there will be a new wrinkle this year, as we learn about graduation and related activities. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself in that regard, but even so I’m bracing for the emails and mailings sure to come in the coming months. I hope that he completes all paperwork for graduation. Even though graduate school is not in his immediate future, it may be for some of his classmates. If it is, they should plan for graduate school this fall, take their graduate entrance exams, apply to schools, request recommendation letter, and meet all necessary deadlines.

Along similar lines, we hope that he pursues new opportunities this fall (e.g. an internship or service project), joins a new club or team, travels during winter or spring break, or takes a class in a department he’s never experienced. In addition to gaining new knowledge, we hope this helps him learn the important lesson that discovery and academic passion need not end with graduation.  One way to do so is to join a professional organization related to his desired profession — now — to network and learn about job opportunities in the field.

Looking ahead, we also hope that our son will continue to avail himself of the relevant services available to him as a UMass Amherst student. Specifically, we hope that he will be a frequent visitor to the Career Services office. This outstanding resource connects students to potential employers, career planning, and internships. In addition to daily walk-in advising hours, the office offers many practical services, including resume and cover letter reviews. A quick visit to their website yields important information about upcoming Career Fairs, Job Fairs and the UMass Amherst Alumni Advisor program.

All told, we have been thrilled by the great academic and social experiences our son has enjoyed at UMass Amherst. We hope that he continues to thrive his senior year and becomes an active alumnus, maintaining a strong connection with a special place that has become his second home. 

Chuck Kaufman is the father of a UMass Amherst senior and serves on the UMass Amherst Parents Advisory Council. 

The Fall Move-In Day: What to Expect

The long-awaited day is finally here. You have been planning for (or at least picturing/worrying about) this day for years and are about to have one less (or no) high school student in the house. Picture of Sam Welcoming FamiliesDepending upon your student, you have been back to school shopping weekly since high school graduation or frantically followed your student around the house while they casually collected their belongings the night before Move-In Day. In my case, having been through this with both my daughter and then my son, I got a taste of both approaches. My daughter discussed color schemes and pored over catalogs before picking out her bedding. She then proceeded to return the bedding and start the process all over again. My son looked up briefly when I showed him the comforter Grandma bought him, said “thanks” and went back to his phone. You may have doubted whether or not you could fit all the dorm paraphernalia into one car or fretted about whether your child would have sufficient clothes and bedding to keep warm come November. I have experienced both ends of that particular spectrum. My first Move-In tip is to remember that student movers (and in some of the high rise residence halls professional movers) will unpack your car and take everything in bins directly up to the room.  Please note you only get help unpacking one car. You’re on your own for additional vehicles!

However long, detailed, organized or disorganized your home preparation and packing process may be, your on-campus experience will have some commonalities. As you approach UMass Amherst, signs will direct you to the east or west depending upon your student’s building. You may miss a sign (we did) and get (only a little) lost on your way to the correct Move-In line. If that happens, don’t stress, there are smiling people everywhere who will help you find your way.

Once in line (and it may initially appear dauntingly long) you will be amazed at how quickly it moves and how organized the process is. The first step is to receive a sign placed on your car stating your student’s building destination. These are color coded and may provide a distraction for nervous students. They will pass the time checking out the other cars and their inhabitants heading to the same building.

As you move forward, you will start hearing applause and welcome cries. These are for your student, who at this point is likely weary of hearing parental Move-In stories from “back in the day.” It gets even better as you round the bend and see scores of Dining Services people waving at you, with one of them approaching your car with a bag of Move-In goodies! There is a reason UMass Amherst Dining Services is ranked number one in the nation and it starts in the Move-In line! Then, you are off to your student’s building.

Once you pull up to the well-marked loading zone, there are plenty of smiling helpers who will quickly unpack your car. The experience will feel familiar to anyone who has cooked Thanksgiving dinner and stood amazed as all that preparation was so rapidly devoured. We had everything moved in to the room by the time my husband returned from parking our car. And we were on the 4th floor of a no-elevator building!

Now it is time to unpack. This process will be directly proportional to the time your student spent planning and packing. You may find yourself trying to squeeze in last minute advice: “Be safe, sleep well, don’t party too much, go to class, never leave a drink unattended, be open to new experiences” will rapidly fall from your mouth with no sign of stopping.  -At this point, you will likely get a look from your student indicating it’s time to go. This may make you proud or break your heart a little, maybe both. The expression will vary from student to student and year to year but will contain some combination of excitement, nervousness, confidence, and fear.  From past experience, I recommend a general plan and timeline: move in, unpack, get a quick meal, return to the residence hall, a quick hug, and exit. Personally, I subscribe to the “pull the band aid off fast” approach.

Your walk back to the car may be tearful. I was more than a little heartsick at this official ending of a childhood and full time parenting of this wonderful, unique person that we had been blessed with for the past 18 years (both move-in times).  -Once in the car, I looked at my husband, who was visibly serene and happy.  Puzzled by each other’s reaction, he said “Why are you sad? We did a great job.” He was right. I still cried – on the way home (and a little after that, too) but once I mourned this natural and necessary ending, I was able to celebrate my student’s new beginning and grateful it is taking place in such a welcoming community.

Almost all of the information you need is on the Residential Life website including links for To Do, packing lists, virtual room tours, etc. There is also an UMass app that you can download with lots of Move- In information. If you are on Facebook, join the UMass Amherst Family to Family group. There are always tons of posts and helpful links to help you plan.

Here are some general (some learned the hard way) tips for you and your student:

  1. Be sure to make an appointment for your Move-In time. Consider your travel time and organization level before picking a time.  
  2. Remember to print your boarding pass when you register for your Move-In time. Forgetting your boarding pass and UCard will add to the time you wait in line.
  3. Bring garbage bags for the packaging after you have unpacked.
  4. Bring a pair of scissors to make opening up packages easier.
  5. Have a general plan for the day (who is coming? If you have 3 or 4 people, there may be insufficient room while unpacking, will you eat before or after, where will the final goodbye be?). This will help if emotions and anxieties run high at goodbye time.
  6. Dress in layers. This is New England and it may be hot or cold or both in the same day.
  7. Remember anything forgotten or newly considered can easily be shipped to the residence halls or the amazon store on campus (please note that the Amazon Store is available only during the Fall semester).
  8. Make early reservations for Family Weekend so you have something to look forward to.
  9. Plan a little treat for yourself and family for when you return home after drop off.

Shannon Cullagh is the parent of two UMass students (senior and sophomore) and a member of the UMass Amherst Parents Association Advisory Council.

My 2017 Parent/Family Orientation Experience

Flashback to 1986: the family car rolls up to the front of the campus auditorium and dad said, “Good luck. I’ll be out front tonight at 8 to pick you up!” 

2017: When I first heard that parents and family members were invited to participate in an orientation at UMass Amherst that takes place concurrently with the student’s orientation, I thought to myself, ‘we really have become quite the helicopter parent generation!’ While this might be an accurate portrayal of some families today, I found that attending the orientation did just the opposite – it alleviated levels of anxiety for my daughter and myself, which ultimately reduced the amount of hovering I had to do to make sure she was prepared for the biggest change in her life.

Parent/family Orientation takes place over two days and consists of a perfect blend of presentations/information sessions and interactive, informal lunches and reception (NOTE: as any UMass Amherst student can attest, amazing food was a common theme!).

Some of the many highlights from my orientation:

  • Welcome/continental breakfast: Check-in for the day, eat and meet new families and families of upper classmen and pick up some orientation swag and materials
  • Academics: A very candid overview from a faculty member about the schools and colleges and everything academics. They talked about what families can and cannot have access to; what they expect from students and what students can expect from them. They also discuss grades, research opportunities, tutoring, extra-curricular activities vital to academic success, etc.
  • Money Matters: A helpful intro to financial to do’s and how to pay the bills. We learned of important dates such as the tuition due date, what is/isn’t covered on tuition bills, payment methods; the UMass work study program, and scholarship search tool.
  • Campus Health & Wellness: You’ll find that UMass Amherst has a plethora of resources, facilities and tools to ensure your child has what they need to live a healthy life at UMass Amherst and form a strong sense of overall well-being (i.e., Campus Recreation Center, University Health Services, and Center for Counseling and Psychological Health)
  • Living at UMass: This discussion answered many questions on family’s mind such as, ‘who are the residential resources my student can go to for assistance?’, ‘how best to address roommate conflicts?’ where do the first-year students live, and expectations for on and off campus living.
  • Technology Discussion: IT team members provided helpful suggestions on technology/devices students do/don’t need to bring with them, and squashed rumors about poor Wi-Fi on campus (to date, my daughter hasn’t complained once about this and if the Wi-Fi was indeed slow, I’m sure I’d hear about it from her!). We also learned what an iclicker was and got to use one in one of our sessions!  
  • Buffet Dinner: Families were joined by staff members – an interactive and informal way to get to know them and other families! As always, the food was excellent!
  • Dessert reception in the Old Chapel (just when we thought we could eat no more!): No presentations or talks here – instead a casual event for mingling with other families and enjoying a selection of drinks and gourmet desserts. Dining Services representatives were also available to answer questions about the tiered meal plans.
  • Trolley Car Rides to Downtown Amherst: You’re probably wondering how far the campus is to town? Well not very far at all. It was a nice treat to hop on the trolley to visit the warm and cozy college town and get a sense of where my daughter will be spending her time. Members of the BID welcomed and gave us flyers and brochures. Some of us bought ice cream while others took a short walk before heading back to campus.
  • Campus Safety: A comforting presentation by UMass Police and two other departments. We learned about the several safety measures and procedures UMass has put into place–(i.e., Walking Escort Service, Safe Celebrations – a campus-wide policy designed to educate students about the rules, policies, and laws surrounding parties, sporting events, and large gatherings).
  • The Student Perspective: A candid discussion led by students. This was a tremendous opportunity for students to gain public speaking skills and share their experiences. I was impressed with their candor, professionalism and ability to think on their feet to answer anxious family’s questions.
  • Day Two lunch @ Franklin Dining Commons: Foods from around the world were offered and this would be the first time families met up with their students since orientation drop-off. Nothing made me happier than to get the brush-off from my daughter when we ran into each other. She had an ear-to-ear smile on her face and was laughing with her newly-made friend (By the way, they’ve kept in touch throughout the summer and entire freshman year!).
  • Detailed presentation around first-year move-in process – can you say well-oiled machine??!!! The presenters emphasized what needed to happen and when (i.e., how and when to book a move-in reservation slot, obtain boarding pass, and where to access move-in checklists). We were encouraged to download the free “My UMass” app – this was key on move-in day as it provided live updates (i.e., local traffic patterns changed specifically for move-in day, etc.). The Office of Parent Services ended the event with a concise summary of key dates; to-do’s and ways families can stay involved and connected with other families. 

Throughout the two days, I learned about the various steps my daughter and I needed to take throughout the summer to prepare for the fall and life at college. With the clear direction we were provided at orientation, there was no need for me to hound her or wonder what exactly needs to be done before arriving on campus on move-in day.

It was continuously evident how close the Office of Parent Services works with every department on campus as well as with students and families. This team is truly there for us all! On the drive home, my daughter and I compared “notes” and caught up about the topics that were covered during our sessions. It was reassuring to know that the messages to both families and students were consistent, clear, and honest. The Parent/Family Orientation got me excited for my daughter’s college experience and compelled me to join the Advisory Council to stay active with the UMass Amherst community and to assist other families and students as they find their way along the exciting college journey. 

Michelle White is a member of the UMass Amherst Parents Advisory Council and parent of a rising sophomore.

Preparing for Commencement

Having gone through graduation in May 2017, I want to share some suggestions. Your student will be responsible for ensuring they have enough credits, the right courses for their major; for picking up the cap and gown, and for showing up in the right place. These recommendations are for parents and family:

  1. Do plan early. Arrange your lodging (Airbnb, hotel/motel, rental home (good for large families, B&Bs) a year in advance! We waited until August 2016 to book and by then, close lodging was not available. We ended up at a B&B (a llama farm!) in Northampton.
  2. Make reservations for celebratory dinners and also book early!  There will be lots of people wanting to go out (approximately 5,000 graduates) to eat after ceremonies!  When you explore possible places, don’t limit yourself to the Amherst area; there are many great restaurants in nearby towns. We ended up with a 7:30 pm reservation in Deerfield the night of graduation (and needed to change it twice because graduation took longer than expected) and a 5:30 pm reservation in West Brookfield (where my parents took me for my UMass graduation dinner in 1980 – A memorable choice). Both restaurants were no more than 30 minutes away.
  3. Plan on spending the weekend given the many graduation ceremonies. We drove to Amherst very early Friday morning and after checking in quickly at the B&B, drove to our daughter’s sorority for a 11:30 am luncheon, then headed to the honors college graduation for 1:00 pm, and the university ceremony at 4:30 pm. The next day (Saturday) was the School of Social and Behavioral Science (SSBS) ceremony and her second BA’s school (the latter was at the same time as the SSBS so we needed to make a choice and ended up missing this one). While the big university graduation only offers the individual schools standing up when degrees are conferred, the smaller ceremonies offer video screens, your student being called up to the stage and accepting their degree, and opportunities for pictures. I recommend families go to all of them! 
  4. Wear comfortable shoes and plan for the free shuttle if you cannot walk the distance or have family members who are elderly and cannot. While the honors college and School of Social and Behavioral Sciences were at the Mullins Center, the university graduation was at the stadium (rain or shine – be prepared with an umbrella if needed), which is a good ten-minute sprint. 
  5. Lastly, have fun. This is a huge day for your student and for those who love that student! But also realize that your student will want to share their last hurrahs with their friends. This is a stressful time for your student and they will need space, understanding and a balance with you and with their friends. 

We are so proud of a daughter and graduation weekend was a great experience. Best of luck to all of you with graduating seniors!

Seena S. Franklin, UMass Parent Advisory member, parent of a UMass graduate, alumni, and resident of Tiverton RI.

A Place to Explore With Your UMass Amherst Student Locally

 

While spending time with your UMass Amherst student, a trip to Atkins Farms should be on the list for your next place to visit. Located 7.6 miles from campus on the corner of Bay Road and Rte. 116 in Amherst, is the New England farm responsible for bringing the first Macintosh apple trees to the area.  The aisles feature Mass farm fresh produce, pastries, gourmet cheeses, fresh meats, breads, sushi, and a variety of local dairy products including milk and ice cream. Cider donuts are probably the most popular item sold by Atkins Farms. Their donuts are shipped all over the U.S. We bought a dozen and split one in the store immediately.  Pure, moist, blissful apple and cinnamon flavor. It was so hard not to eat more, but we wanted to save room for lunch.

The specialty foods department features cottage industry products produced locally in New England but also stocks new and old favorites from around the world sure to complement the stellar UMass Amherst dining experience. Specialty coffees, a wide variety of hard-to-find teas, sauces, mustards, pastas, oils, vinegars, jams, jellies, chutneys, cake, scone, muffin and pancake mixes, marinades, dressings, and much more. I’m sure we were in that section of Atkins for half an hour. We just love scoping out different flavors for my husband’s culinary expertise.

Having intentionally eaten a light breakfast, we were ready for an early lunch. I am a self-proclaimed reuben connoisseur, so naturally I ordered the Atkins Orchard Reuben for $7.95.   My reuben made with Boar’s Head turkey breast, with sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese and thousand Island dressing on grilled rye was sandwich perfection. My daughter, the avocado freak, opted for the Loaded Quarry for $8.75, which included blackened turkey, cheddar cheese, and avocado on sourdough bread. Lunch was approved by us both.

The Candy Shop was our next stop. After all, every well-stocked UMass Amherst Residence Hall room needs some good snacks. Colors of sweetness brought me back to my childhood when penny candy was actually a penny! It was hard to decide between hand-dipped fudge and a caramel dipped apple. So, we bought one of each!  Atkins has over 20 flavors of fudge available at all times.  My daughter’s fudge habit was satiated with a ½ pound of Amaretto Swirl Fudge. Every Italian appreciates this almond-flavored twist on fudge.

We paraded through the aisles loaded with different local products. “Look at the artisan cheeses and olive bar, come here!”, I called. We ended up with a mild cheddar in the shape of a black cat. Next, we ambled over to see the array of Atkins Farms brand products. Their Apple-Cinnamon Pancake Mix and syrup found their way into our basket in anticipation of my daughter’s next at-home Sunday breakfast (hope she brings her roommate!).

Finally, a sweep through the beer and wine department found us picking up a bottle of locally made pumpkin wine, (just to try something new for fall!) and a six pack of Berkshire Brewing Company’s famous Steel Rail. An afternoon with the smell of fresh, locally grown EVERYTHING, displayed in a rainbow of colors, was just what this foodie pair needed.

After our relaxing afternoon of poking through Atkins with just the right amount of conversation and discovery, we decided to check out the Atkins Farm website when we returned to my daughter’s dorm room. Discovering that there are actual Atkins Farms family recipes available, we planned out our cooking and baking to-do list options. Grandma Gould’s Apple Crisp recipe was requested for my daughter’s next trip home. Personally, I wanted to try the Apple-Butternut Squash Soup. Atkins Farms never disappoints and affords hours of calm, down time with your UMass Amherst student.

JoAnn Roselli is a member of the UMass Amherst Parents Association Advisory Council. She is the parent of a freshman.

Preparing for Commencement

Having gone through graduation in May 2017, I want to share some suggestions. Your student will be responsible for ensuring they have enough credits, the right courses for their major, for picking up the cap and gown, and for showing up in the right place. These recommendations are for parents and family:    

  1. Do plan early. Arrange your lodging a year in advance! We waited until August 2016 to book and by then, close lodging was not available. We ended up at a B&B (a llama farm!) in Northampton.
  2. Make reservations for celebratory dinners and also book early!  There will be lots of people wanting to go out (approximately 5,000 graduates) to eat after ceremonies!  When you explore possible places, don’t limit yourself to the Amherst area; there are many great restaurants in nearby towns. We ended up with a 7:30 pm reservation in Deerfield the night of graduation (and needed to change it twice because graduation took longer than expected) and a 5:30 pm reservation in West Brookfield (where my parents took me for my UMass graduation dinner in 1980 – A memorable choice). Both restaurants were no more than 30 minutes away.
  3. Plan on spending the weekend given the many graduation ceremonies. We drove to Amherst very early Friday morning and after checking in quickly at the B&B, drove to our daughter’s sorority for a 11:30 am luncheon, then headed to the honors college graduation for 1:00 pm, and the university ceremony at 4:30 pm. The next day (Saturday) was the College of Social and Behavioral Science (SBS) ceremony and her second BA’s school (the latter was at the same time as the SBS so we needed to make a choice and ended up missing this one). While the big university graduation only offers the individual schools standing up when degrees are conferred, the smaller ceremonies offer video screens, your student being called up to the stage and accepting their degree, and opportunities for pictures. I recommend families go to all of them!
  4. Wear comfortable shoes and plan for the free shuttle if you cannot walk the distance or have family members who are elderly and cannot. While the honors college and College of Social and Behavioral Sciences were at the Mullins Center, the university graduation was at the stadium (rain or shine – be prepared with an umbrella if needed), which is a good ten-minute sprint.
  5. Lastly, have fun. This is a huge day for your student and for those who love that student! But also realize that your student will want to share their last hurrahs with their friends. This is a stressful time for your student and they will need space, understanding and a balance with you and with their friends.

We are so proud of a daughter and graduation weekend was a great experience. Best of luck to all of you with graduating seniors!

Seena S. Franklin, UMass Parent Advisory member, parent of a UMass Amherst graduate, alumni, and resident of Tiverton RI.

Parenting an Out of State College Student

I was apprehensive, yet excited, when my daughter decided that she wanted to attend school in another state.   Happily, she would only be a 2 ½ hour drive away from home.  Along with the excitement was the reality that I wouldn’t see her every day and thus wouldn’t be able to parent the way I would if she lived at or closer to home.

As a “remote parent,” technology such as Facetime, email and texting simplifies staying in touch and increases the frequency of our communication.  Although she is not at home and doesn’t require my permission to go out, I stress to her the need to carry her phone at all times and contact me in case of an emergency.  As a parent, I want to know that she is safe so ready communication is a must.  Each time she informs me that she is going out with friends, my husband and I continue to reinforce the list of do and don’t messages…”When you go out with friends, do make sure you come back home with those friends”; “Never leave with someone you don’t know”; “Don’t drink from an open bottle”; “Don’t drink and drive; “Do know that we love you and call us if you need help.”  It’s also important to me to learn the names of the people who are closest to my daughter.  I know the names of her roommates and her close friends.  When we communicate via Facetime or phone, I ask about them just to improve my connection with her.  Staying in constant contact with my daughter makes me feel closer regardless of the physical distance between us.

As always, keeping my daughter healthy is one of my top priorities.  When she left for school in September, I purchased an inventory of cold medicines.  In October, my daughter caught her first cold.  She called me immediately and I suggested that she start taking the best medicines to treat her symptoms.   Although I wasn’t there to make her chicken soup, I found out that the dining halls offer “get well meals.” In addition to homemade soup, they have many of the other comforts of home like crackers, fresh fruit, ginger ale, tea, and Jell-o.   It’s comforting for both of us to know that in case she gets a cold/flu, she can contact the dining hall to prepare the necessary meals to get her on her feet again.  Additionally, sending a care package or card to her during her illness also helps when you are not there in person.

Although, we live out of state, I opted not to let my newly licensed daughter use a car.  Her two transportation options are the Peter Pan bus or parent pickup, thus eliminating my concern of her driving home alone during school breaks or holidays, especially during inclement weather.

Finally, I have joined the UMass Amherst Parents Advisory Council as a means of keeping abreast of what’s going on at UMass Amherst. In addition to providing an opportunity to get involved on another level, it gives me a reason to drop in periodically to see my daughter and make sure she continues to thrive. That’s what I call a win-win!

Mercel Meredith-Ault is a member of the UMass Amherst Parents Advisory Council and parent of a first-year student.

Life After College

Our daughter graduated from UMass Amherst last May and while it’s been great to have her home, it has been a major transition: for her and for me!  Her dad seems to be the only one who has seamlessly eased back into our three-person household.

Our daughter never looked back when she left for college. Perhaps primed for separation by being at overnight camp, she was excited to be on her own.  Fast forward to the end of May 2017! Our independent daughter is now living at home, working as a server at a restaurant and sending out resumes for positions that utilize her new degrees. Because she leaves for work hours after I arrive at my office and she comes home long after I am asleep, our initial mode of communication was texting.  That led to most of my communications targeting what she was not doing at home or inquiring about something. Thank goodness, our daughter felt comfortable giving me that feedback.

Living together again has been a journey. I’ve had to learn to not ask so many questions, trusting her judgment and ability to do what she believes she needs, including how many positions she’s applied to and whether she’ll be home for dinner (the latter is hard for a Jewish mother who wants her daughter to eat!); and she’s learned that my ways of interacting (all those questions) come from a place of wanting her to not miss a job opportunity and wanting to take care of her.

My advice for other families is to be sensitive to the transition. It’s okay to admit that the transition is hard for you but, for your student, it is probably harder. They not only went from living on their own to being with their families again but also they left many friends that most likely they will never be so near again (and certainly not in one place together).  And for our daughter, she left Amherst and UMass (a city unto itself!) and returns to a town of 17,000 far from many of her college friends. Huge transitions and huge losses!

There is life after college for your student and life after college for the family, but it is one big transition first which requires time, some compromise, readjustment, and understanding – nothing that won’t resolve overtime. So enjoy the new adult relationship.

Seena S. Franklin, is a member of the UMass Amherst Parent Association Advisory Council, parent of a May 2017 graduate, alumna and resident of Tiverton RI.