That girl of ours? She’s settling in

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life41 Comments
Photo by Aidan Zielske, Madison, Wis.

Aidan came home last weekend for a visit.

I know. You may be thinking, “Wait—didn’t she just leave?” And the answer is yes. She did just leave. But she needed to snag a little home time and found a way to hitch a ride home thanks to a very active ride share board at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Luckily, it’s only a four-hour drive. And also luckily, Dan works in Madison once a month so he drove her back on Sunday  night.

Her first week-and-a-half on campus was a little rough. I think she was surprised by the homesickness. I think we were, too.

There’s just a lot to adjust to, you know? Walking or biking three miles across campus every day to get to classes. Remembering to feed yourself at proper intervals. Making friends when you’re an introvert at heart. Showering in a communal bathroom. The noise levels of dorm life in general. For some kids, it’s a bit overwhelming.

I wish I had kept better journals in college. I can’t recall if I had a hard time adjusting, but my journal entry below might suggest otherwise. (Sorry, Mom!)

I really didn’t write much at all during my Freshman year. And what I did manage to write was a bunch of whiny, annoying crap. (And that would surprise you because…?)

Sure, there are a handful of entries, most of which cannot be shared in this decidedly PG-13 space, but isn’t that what college is all about?


It’s all good. She is a very different college Freshman than I was in that she is the type of person who typically makes good choices.

And the good news is that she’s settling in. She’s feeling more comfortable every day. She’s loving her classes. She’s got this.

Plus, there’s the miracle of FaceTime.

And for now I resume my role of supporting her from a far. Turns out, I’m pretty freaking awesome at it.

Who knew?

Go Aidan.




Cathy ZielskeThat girl of ours? She’s settling in

41 Comments on “That girl of ours? She’s settling in”

  1. #1

    Go Aidan! And Go Cathy! Thanks so very much for giving me a sneak preview of next year when our DS goes off to college. You are reminding me to savor each day he is home.

  2. #2

    Interesting. I was wondering how she was doing. I also went to Madison (about 20 years ago now!), and remember how hard it was to adjust to such a big campus, so many people, such huge classes that we couldn’t even get close to the professors. I am sure she will be fine and will find her niche soon enough…there are probably tons of girls just like her waiting to be found.

  3. #3

    It’s nice to know my daughter isn’t the only college student feeling this way. I forwarded her this so she can read it when she gets up this morning. Thank you.

    1. #3.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yes, it is, huh? I’m part of a UW-Madison parents group online and it’s helpful to get other parents’ perspective. I was just not expecting her to be so homesick, but again, she’s totally working through it. And it’s not necessarily me and her Dad that she misses as much as another person who lives here presently. 😉

  4. #4

    I am living the same life! My daughter is 6 hours away and had a tough 2 weeks too but is slowly settling in and I am learning my new role

  5. #5
    Kate Griswold

    Yay Aiden! Annie is settling in equally well. Loves her program (studying musical theatre) and her MT classmates (total of 18 freshmen admitted by audition). She hasn’t been home yet, but we went down for family weekend! She may come home for her HS homecoming game… Otherwise we won’t get her home until Thanksgiving. Thanks for sharing your journey! This was the second (and final) college launch for us. I wasn’t prepared for how much more emotional I was this time around!

  6. #6

    Way to go, Aidan!! (And doesn’t it make you feel a teensy bit better knowing how much she missed you and home too?) She is an amazing young lady. You done good, Mom. Thanks for the update!!

  7. #7
    Ruth G

    Good for her and for you! What a fabulous school to attend and so nice that you’re close enough for a weekend visit! With your love and support she will soar!

  8. #8

    It seems to be Mom and Dad having the difficult time over here. Son is loving it and hasn’t been home once. Was supposed to come to a football game this weekend and decided not to… said he was staying “home” — what??!!!

  9. #9

    Fantastic News! Glad to hear she’s settling in. Moving away from home, I’ve discovered, is QUITE a culture shock. FaceTime and Skype get me through my weeks, too, so that I can SEE my family now. (I’m in my mid-to-late-30’s and LOVE to see my mom whenever I get the chance!) Sadly, we didn’t have cell phones and webcams when I attempted college there (for three weeks back in the mid-90’s) or else I might not have been so homesick back then either. Recently discovered that I can FaceTime my mom while doing dishes (a job that I Hate, Hate, HATE) and it makes that task downright enjoyable! Just propped my iPad mini near the sink and voila… dishes done while in good company!

  10. #10

    Go Aidan! Go Cathy! Go Dan! Go Cole! It’s all about growth and expansion and reflection and choice and love. And, you CZ, I love almost as much as I love Skype and that I can keep in touch with Claire who left in late August and won’t be back until the last weekend of September! 😀

  11. #12

    Yay on surviving the first week and a half without your oldest 🙂 I’m proud of you! And Aiden! (My daughter is similarly good at making better choices than I, when I was her age.) I’ll get to see her next weekend, when we have family photos planned that we’ve not had done in maybe 7-8 years). You’ve got this!

  12. #14

    I grew up in Wisconsin, and moved far, far away (to PA) for college. I had thought myself very independent, but had a really (and unexpectedly) difficult time those first few months. Despite loving my school and my roommate. I remember crying to my mom on the phone (because I couldn’t just pop home for a weekend!) that I wanted to just quit and come home. She made me a deal that if I still felt that way at Thanksgiving break, I could quit. Of course, by Thanksgiving felt quite differently. 🙂 Hang in there, Aiden! and Cathy!

    1. #14.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yep. There were moments when she doubted if she was going to make it there. But she’s turning the corner for sure.

  13. #15
    Lisa Spiegel

    My girl came home 515 miles after only 10 days.. After that it was fairly smooth sailing. Hope Aidan finds her footing! And yes, FaceTime is key!

  14. #16

    Hi Cathy –
    Let Aidan know that it took me several months to completely adjust. I loved my classes and professors right away and focused my energy there. But as a naturally shy kid who had a wide circle of friends during four years of high school, I felt isolated – even in a great big dorm. It was hard to adjust to all the people, their routines, the noise, the late nights, the partying. I made a few friends, but things weren’t clicking. When I decided to leave the school at the beginning of my second semester, word spread quickly throughout my dorm. I suddenly had a steady stream of folks telling me they felt pretty much the same way.
    Who knew? I sure hadn’t!
    That Friday the kids in the dorm threw me a surprise going away party. But after learning that most of us were going through a similar period of adjustment, I decided to stay. The going away party became the “glad you’re staying party” and ushered in 3.5 terrific years!.
    Because of my experience as a freshman, in each of my next three years I volunteered to be a Big Sister to an incoming freshman. I also ran adjustment workshops for freshmen as part of my studies program.
    Good luck with all that going off to college entails; send up a flare when you need to; study hard; be open; stay safe and enjoy the ride!
    I agree with your Mom, Aidan – you’ve got this!
    – Lee

  15. #17

    It’s so interesting to hear everyone’s stories. I was one of those kids who couldn’t get out of the house fast enough and never wanted to go back. I still cross my eyes and am befuddled when I hear people talk about being homesick when they leave for college (I just can’t imagine it). But then I wonder, what it will be like for my kids? (Luckily I have a while before we face that challenge. They’re almost-5 and almost-8.) I hope they have the same joy I did…but also hope they want to tell me about it more than I communicated with my mom. 😉

    Thank you EVERYONE for sharing!

  16. #18

    Partway in to his Freshman year, my son confided to me that he had a hard time adjusting to college living too. He said he loves it now but he was even questioning the school he chose. I never went away to college (I lived at home) so I was surprised there was an adjustment period but from what I hear it happens a lot! The thing with boys, or maybe it’s just my boy, is that he doesn’t call… or facetime… or anything. He’s busy with school work and he plays a college sport but still. It stings.

    Glad to her Aidan is having fun and that everyone is adjusting just fine!

  17. #19

    Oh boy Cathy, I’m remembering my first time away from home. I think I was somewhere between your daughter and you in my experience. How fortunate for both of you that she is getting this experience.

    I’m relishing in every bit you write about this as my little one will be in this same place in 2 years. I fear it already.

    Thanks so much for your posts!

  18. #20
    Kim Woods

    I swear I get so anxious when I read your posts about Aidan because I’m pre-freaking out about my freshman in high school leaving me in four short years. It makes me sad to read “homesickness”! OMG! I might die if my kids tell me they are homesick! It is good that she likes her classes, that will sustain her and keep her engaged and happy 🙂 Keep on keeping on lovely lady!

  19. #22

    As an empty-nest veteran going on 6 years, for me it continues to get better and better. We had two children (both girls), and there will always be times when I miss them being in my home. But it has been such a huge joy to watch them become functioning adults! Just like us, sometimes they stumble, but usually they soar. Such a gift! It’s been a good thing for me to see it all again through your eyes.

  20. #23

    This was so true for all my kids when they left for college. There were frequent visit by them and by us. It really helped with the transition. After 1 year in the dorms my kids knew it wasn’t the best enviroment for them and we started seeking out 3 bedroom apt options and that was a much better fit. Much more privacy. Such an exciting time for all of you.

  21. #25

    We were happy that our daughter was too chicken to drive the 500 miles home the first few weeks she was away at college! Once she realized she was stuck there for a month or two at least, she calmed down and settled in and was fine. But oh goodness–that first three weeks!! Yikes. She was our second to go to college so we knew to wait her out (her brother only took a couple of days to adjust), and now it’s fun to see her help her younger brother who is only an hour from her (and 8 from us). An important life experience, but hard to be in the middle of–both for the student and for mom & dad! Glad she’s feeling more at home there now.

  22. #26

    WOO HOO! Standing up and cheering for Aidan! Thanks for the update. It made me realize that 28 years ago next week (September 29 to be exact), I met the very first love of my life, my first “real” boyfriend. Oh, did I fall HARD! A year later we were engaged. And then he broke my heart. (It’s all good. Four years later I met the man I was to marry and here we still are, 22 years later). But OH the memories of those first few months (and not just the boyfriend memories). It was glorious. Everything was new. And I loved it. Proud of you Cathy! Ya done good!

  23. #27

    Went through exactly the same thing with my daughter last year as she headed to College – she is about to head off into second year and I still can’t quite believe it. Mine adjusted quickly just like I knew she would – she is much braver than me 🙂

  24. #28

    I can totally understand about the homesickness on both ends – Aidan’s and yours. But after years of reading your blog, I can’t help but believe you’ll somehow turn this into a huge learning experience, find a big way to improve the process for other people, and make lemonade out of lemons (like “Lee” above)! You’re so good at that — you dive right in and take something difficult, turn it around, and make it great! You seem awesome at managing change — like the cute cards you made for the boxes of goodies you sent Aidan…things like that. You just make it WORK. Does that make sense? You too, CZ, TOTALLY got this!

  25. #29

    I wish more people would talk about it like you are Cathy. My daughter just started her freshman year in Arizona ( we currently live in Utah) and we did not expect the homesickness and the adjustment period. Everyday it is getting a little bit better. I just spent the last three days wih her and I am amazed at how grown up she seems.

  26. #30

    Glad to hear she’s doing well! I am not surprised, just relieved that she has turned the corner so quickly. 🙂 We aren’t going up this weekend but will be on campus Oct. 11th to see our son. Chris made a quick trip up there to take him out to dinner last week. I think it was good for both of them. 😉

  27. #31

    I sobbed every single day for the first few months at Ball State…. I was making friends and doing OK, I just ached for the life I had known and loved….. I wish I could apologize to my mom for all the stress and worried I caused her….. I was fine at school, I just terribly wanted things to stay the way they always were…. I ultimately issued my mom….. It was pre-internet and face time…. Snail mail took too long….. I am still grateful my mom never told me actually how deeply she missed me. She knew I would have come home…. I would have. Stay strong…. Bless face time!

  28. #32

    I am grateful to see all these posts and read these stories. My son is a college freshman and has turned the corner as well I think. Week 2 was very difficult for him which of course made it so much harder for us as well. He said the adjustment was harder than he expected it to be. It is a huge adjustment for all. Best wishes to you and your daughter. We will all make it through and thrive, won’t we?!! One day at a time.

  29. #33
    Jan McCann

    Cathy, my daughter leaves tomorrow to study in London, about a 4 hour drive from us. Good to know I’m not the only one feeling happy/sad at the same time. Aidan will love it before long.

  30. #34
    Liz Eaton

    It is crazy that in the flash of an eye they are grown up & off to the next thing. The days are long, but the years are short, keeps coming back to me. Love reading her adventure. Please keep sharing!

  31. #35

    Love the honesty of this post and glad Aidan is adjusting. I went to UW-Madison 15 years ago and while it wasn’t my first choice (Madison is my hometown), I ended up loving it. Hoping she does too. 🙂

  32. #36

    I’m just catching up on a backlog of posts, and this resonated. We are in the process of getting ourselves organised to send our oldest daughter to boarding school for next year (and for the 5 years that follow) for secondary school. Not unlike sending your girl off to college. Except my girl will be 12!!!! We have no other schooling options (other than great big moving/changing our occupation choices!) and I know she will be looked after – I know she’s not the only one (a whole raft of kids from rural and regional Australia HAVE to do this) but still….she’s 12 and essentially leaving home.


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