Home vs university – how to keep them connected
From my time at university so far, I’ve met other students from all over the country and world. To me, it’s amazing that – depending on where each person is from – their experience of university is so different. For example, I know some people from Birmingham, who came to Warwick because it is so close to home; they can go back for the weekend every fortnight or so, if they want to. One such person in first year chose to take all their dirty laundry home every couple of weeks, because it was cheaper than using the launderettes on campus, and they were going home anyway, so why not?
A lot of students come from London; just over an hour away on the train. One of my housemates went home and back briefly in a day simply for one item which he had forgotten.
So, I know quite a lot of people that didn’t consider going to university further away than an hour or two from their homes, because they wanted to be able to go home frequently throughout term time. But what about the others? In my case, a train journey (without any cancellations or delays) takes four to four and a half hours to get home. I’ve only ever done one weekend trip back home, because it was expensive (£66 for an open return was the cheapest, and that’s with a rail card) and took a lot of time to travel. Therefore, I come to Warwick for the term and don’t expect to see my immediate family for 10 to 11 weeks or so. I am fortunate in that usually once a term my parents drop in on me on their way to somewhere else, so I normally don’t go longer than 6 or 7 weeks without seeing them.
But what about students who live geographically further away in the UK? And what about international students? One of my friends has just gone to Korea for a year; she won’t be coming back at all because of the expense and Covid quarantine restrictions (she would have to isolate for ages when getting to a new country).
It means that some students are spending their holidays (an entire year at a time) away from home (and for international students, in a whole new country).
Before I went to university as a fresher, some common advice I heard was that ‘everybody’s in the same boat’. This saying does make sense, because no matter where you’ve come from or who you are, you’ll all be in the same place, experiencing the same things. But the saying implies that everybody feels the same way; that everybody has the same adventure, and here I think the saying breaks down. No two students’ experience is the same, whether you are talking about environmentally, or mentally. The things we experience, even if they are the same as the person who is viewing them next to you, are processed in a completely different way, internally.
So how can we keep connected with home when we may be so far away? These are some ways in which I keep up with my family and friends back home when I’m not there, and no matter if I’ll be away for just a few days, or months at a time, keeping up this communication in a routine lets me feel connected.
Messaging: WhatsApp, DMs, texting, emails, whatever works! I find a use a combination of all of these to keep up with different friends and family. Advice to any freshers out there – sometimes certain people will either message too much, or not at all. Agreeing on a method of communication with them and then sticking to it as much as possible will help both parties fall into a routine that can be a steady rock throughout the (occasional) chaos of term time. For people that message too often for your liking, I usually tell them that I will message them back once or twice in a day, but not to worry if they don’t hear from me immediately (sometimes family members (parents especially) are more worried about you being away from home than you are!).
Phoning: So old-fashioned, but so great. I can talk to my sister for two and a half hours at a time (usually more like one and a half, but every so often we have a lot to say). Long phone calls are also so great for keeping the connection genuine, because you have the time to be relaxed and let there be natural silences – it feels like the other person is there with you, rather than having a brief phone call where you cram in summaries of everything that’s happened to catch them up to speed, and you get the same brief summary from them at the other end of the line. I have a phone call with my immediate family members once a week; we always stick to the same weekday and time, for convenience and consistency.
Video calling one-to-one: Again, on WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Zoom, or even Microsoft Teams (although I can’t say I use this last one for anything unrelated to work). Whatever means of communication, this can be more fun than a bog standard phone call – I always feel more connected this way. I also love being able to show people things, rather than having to describe it in words.
Entire family video-call: I realise this might not be to everyone’s taste. In my family, this is a relatively new addition. It only started as a result of Covid so that we could keep other family members (who felt more isolated) in the loop, but we kept going with the calls even after bubbles were created, and now we have a massive family Zoom call every Sunday night.
So, whether you are a fresher, or a seasoned university student, communication with somebody who isn’t in the vicinity will be important to you. That could be friends, family, or both – and it can be important to keep that connection, so that you don’t have to worry about ever losing it.