Freshers has come and gone again & I can hardly believe it’s now 2 years since I arrived at Warwick, full of excitement and apprehension. Making the step to university is a daunting one & despite all the exciting possibilities this new journey holds, for many of you it will be your first time living away from home. It takes a while to establish a routine, settle into the new environment and make friends, which at the outset can certainly feel overwhelming, especially together with the seeming torrent of new information being thrown your way! Having experienced quite bad feelings of homesickness as a fresher, so in this post I thought it would be helpful to share some tips:
1 – THIS IS NORMAL
Firstly, I cannot stress enough the normality of homesickness! It is absolutely normal to miss home or feel disoriented for a while. Anyone can be inflicted at any time. I came to uni after 2 gap years, aged 21, and was still affected, whereas some younger students coped better – it just goes to show that everyone really is different. Sometimes, these feelings can come and go, in waves. Some people are fine to start with, but once the initial excitement of freshers has worn off they start to miss home. Others (like myself) struggle more right at the start but settle in after a couple of weeks.
Throughout your time at university, in fact, it’s normal and completely human to miss family and home comforts, even if it’s just the tiny things like mum’s cooking! My own view is that we all simply adjust to it over time and learn how to cope – I still get a little bit homesick every year when I return to uni after the summer break. Earlier this term I lived alone for a week as I had to return to campus early & even as a final year student, the empty house definitely made me feel those homesick pangs! However, having had a couple of years experience under my belt, I dealt with it much more easily – because I knew I’d come through it and everything would be fine.
2 – TALK ABOUT IT
Don’t be afraid to keep your feelings to yourself. If you feel able to, I think it’s really important to talk about homesickness, with someone in your flat, a coursemate, or anyone you click with in those early weeks. Chances are lots of people feel the same way but don’t necessarily talk about it! When I was a Fresher, I was quite open about feeling homesick when the moment arose. If others ask you; ‘How are you finding it? Settling in?’ etc; this can be a great way into mentioning homesickness. No one will think less of you for it. My experience was hugely positive & opened up some really interesting conversations with many others who then admitted they felt exactly the same. It was a way not just of reassuring one another that we were all in the same boat but helped me to find something in common with others and start to make friends. Look after each other!
Warwick also has a great – and in my opinion, under-tapped – source of support, through the personal tutor and mentor system. When you join the university, you will be assigned a personal tutor, usually a member of the academic staff in your department, who you will meet a number of times through the year. You can contact them with questions or arrange to meet at any time you like – they are there to support you making the transition to university, not just academically, but emotionally as well. If you feel more comfortable talking to another student, then most departments have a mentor system too, and you will be assigned a ‘buddy’ from one of the years above. Make sure you check in with your mentor! They’ve been there before and are a great, friendly source of support. I occasionally chatted to my personal tutor and mentor in 1 year but I wish I’d made more of these systems. Even now, I always leave my tutor meetings feeling very reassured!
In addition, it’s always worth being aware of the Residential Life Team and the constant system of support they offer. Every campus accommodation has a Resident Tutor who lives within halls & this is someone you can approach with any number of problems: personal or family troubles, issues with your experience living in halls or, indeed, homesickness. Although I didn’t have any direct experience of talking to my own Resident Tutor in 1 year, her presence within halls was reassuring in itself, & it was always nice to know that there was someone to contact or talk to if I needed!
3 – KEEP BUSY!
The easiest thing is to stay in your room dwelling on it, but this can actually make you feel worse. Don’t isolate yourself! Get out and about, even if that’s as simple as hanging out in your kitchen or common room with a few flatmates. Freshers is a great time to explore all that campus has to offer – so take a walk (Warwick has so much green space and many different walking/running/cycling routes!), book a show at the Arts Centre or whatever else takes your fancy. Or, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, maybe enlist a friend or two and venture beyond the campus ‘bubble’ to Coventry or Leamington Spa, each of which are a short bus ride away. Again, it’s a brilliant way of distracting yourself whilst starting to make friends.
Another way of keeping busy is to join societies. Get yourself down to the Societies Fair or Sports Fair and you’ll be spoilt for choice. There is something for everyone and most societies have a busy calendar of freshers events, social nights and things to get involved with from the word ‘go’! I joined several societies in my 1 year, initially getting very involved with Tap, Acapella Choir and Music Theatre Warwick (MTW), and going on to join even more drama societies later in the year. I firmly maintain that this was the best thing I could have done to help me settle in, meet like-minded people and start to put roots down at university. I was constantly forced to get out of my room and have fun!
4 – PLAN A VISIT HOME
Last, but not least, don’t be afraid to visit home after a couple of weeks if you need to. There is absolutely no shame in this and it doesn’t mean you’ve ‘failed’ somehow at living away from home. If you plan a weekend or overnight trip home, you’ve got this to work towards and it can make the first few weeks seems more do-able if you’re struggling to settle. I went home after 3 weeks and surprised my family which was a lovely way of counting down the days! I had a fabulous time in my first few weeks but having this date to look forward to helped me hugely and stopped me feeling so homesick.
You’ve got this! Keep smiling, keep busy, and have a brilliant year. You are not alone & if homesickness bites – be assured it won’t last forever. You’re going to have a brilliant time. It will fly by so make the most of it! Good luck xx