Whether this is your first time away from home or not, it’s extremely common to feel homesick when moving out to university – along with a change of location, it’s likely you will be experiencing a new environment, different people and maybe even a new country – so it’s only natural to feel a bit nervous or apprehensive about September – especially if you are about to begin your time here.
This is why I’m writing this blog – homesickness can be such a strong emotion that multitudes of students experience (more specially, up to ¾ of us, according to the Student Housing Company) yet it’s barely discussed – which doesn’t help us access the resources we need to feel better. Hopefully through this article, you will understand that it’s normal to be homesick, some of the ways in which homesickness can manifest and how to deal with these emotions. Let’s start! 😊
Q: What is homesickness?
A: This is the collective feeling of stress and anxiety caused by being away from certain people, places or both. There is no specific criteria you need to meet for your homesickness to feel ‘justified’ or valid. In relation to us, students tend to feel the most homesick at the beginning of the academic year and during ‘post-Christmas blues’. It can also hit a few months after being away – after all the excitement of being in a new place has worn off.
Q: Am I more or less likely to be homesick?
A: Anyone can be homesick, regardless of whether they are going to a campus an hour away or halfway around the world – the distance does not matter as much as the feeling of separation.
Q: How do I know if I am homesick or just a bit off / ill?
A: Everyone experiences homesickness differently through the intensity of their emotions, so there is no straight checklist. Common feelings usually include sadness, feeling tearful, anxious and disconnected from the new environment. The scale to which these are experienced can vary – and they don’t even have to be directly linked to home (eg feeling emotionally unstable is another sign of homesickness). As the intensity of these emotions can vary, they can also affect our actions to different extents (eg through feeling as if you don’t want to go out or losing your appetite).
Q: What can I do to avoid or help with feeling homesick?
A: While it isn’t possible to completely ‘switch off’ feelings of being homesick, there are hundreds of things you can do to feel better! I have listed the ones I think that could be the most helpful below:
1. Talk to people
Whether this is your friends back home, your family or student support, talking about your feelings is one of the best things you can do to help yourself out since it helps you realise you’re not the only one feeling this way – which allows you to relate to other people and their experiences. You could also share tips or grow the conversation from there!
If talking to people from home, keep a balance with the amount of time you spend on the phone. While it is great to have daily conversations with them, set a time limit per day. Spending too long on the phone may isolate you from opportunities and potential friends at university which only intensifies homesickness. You could set aside a time every day for this phone call so you can create a stable routine and keep track of how long you will talk for.
2. Make your room your space
Since you will be spending a significant amount of time in that uni room, it’s important for it to be a place where you can feel comfortable, can stay focused as well as relax. Do this through decorating it exactly how you like it, bringing some objects from home, buying posters from the Student Union and making it convenient for you. Emily has written a great blog on this (which I’m going to take some tips from for next year!).
If you are thinking of the things you miss about being at home, reframe this into what you have to look forward to when you go back! While you are at university, try your best to enjoy it – attend events, try to meet people, explore the area and (maybe) do some work! Another tip is to remember the reason(s) you chose to come here in the first place. Use this as motivation to be hopeful about the situation and view your time at uni as a new ‘chunk’ of your life.
4. Look after yourself
One of the worst things you could do would be to beat yourself up for feeling homesick. As I mentioned, it is a normal feeling 1000s of students in the same university as you will also be having – and there’s no shame in it! Continue to look after yourself as you would at home – get enough sleep, do activities you enjoy (eg. reading), eat as healthily as you can and keep in regular communication with people back home.
Hopefully this little Q&A has helped you understand homesickness better as well as given you a couple of suggestions for how to deal with it. If you’d like to talk a bit more about this, please feel free to message me and I’d love to have a chat! 😊