Starting University is full of new and exciting opportunities and for many people it means moving away from home to live in a new place with new people. During Fresher’s Week, everything is designed to help students make friends, stay busy and settle in. However, it is not uncommon to miss home during this time as the pressures of starting a new life in unfamiliar surroundings away from friends and family can feel overwhelming.
It is important to remember that feeling way is a normal process which many students will go through. If homesickness does start to become overly prominent in your mind, there are a number of ways to overcome this and hopefully start to feel better about the new changes in your life. The following points may help you in beating homesickness whilst at University:
Moving to a new place with new people can be daunting for some but hiding away in your room may only lead to increasing your feelings of homesickness and loneliness. University is packed with opportunities to try new things and meet new people, so it is important to get out of your room and occupy your mind. Although you may find this difficult at first, and you may not feel like it, try to push yourself to go out and meet new people and once you start to enjoy yourself and have some fun it’s likely that you’ll soon forget about missing home!
Make an effort to attend activities during the Fresher’s period, it’s planned specifically for to help students settle in, meet new people and try new things. So why not join a club or society, especially those offering activities that you know you’ll enjoy, as you’re likely to meet students with whom you have a lot in common. Also invest in a door stop! If you do happen to be in your room keep your door open, this welcomes other students to stop by and say hello in passing. If someone invites you to pop in to them or vice versa, invite them over as well. Suggest going for a drink even, you’ve nothing to lose and the quicker you make new friends the quicker you’ll build a social life for yourself at university!
If you are struggling to make new friends, try talking to people in your communal kitchen or maybe some people from other flats. Also try speaking to people that are sat on their own when you go to lectures or for dinner, they are most likely to be feeling very similar to you but may not have the confidence to approach you.
If you don’t have much interest in what’s happening on campus, look to the surrounding local area for events, outings and clubs. The internet, Local papers, and tourist information centres are just some of the sources for local happenings. So remember, branching out and making new friends is a great way to get rid of homesickness.
The more you know about your new city, the more you will be accustomed to it, so keep exploring! It can be daunting moving to new surroundings and the university can seem huge but it really isn’t. So make use of the guided tours, find your nearest shop and get information on buses etc. so you know where everything is. If you become a guru of your surrounding area you’re bound to get a little bit of realisation that you are in a great city and that this really can be your new home for a few years!
Get a job or volunteer for a few hours a week! Getting a bit of cash in might help you feel less homesick. With something else on your mind such as part-time employment, you tend to forget about homesickness as well as many other things, and it’s a great opportunity to meet new people.
Feeling homesick at university is a common experience so remember that you are not the only one who feels this way. Even if you believe everyone else around you is taking it a lot better than you, they are probably putting on a brave face, so talk about it! Not only will talking to someone make you feel better, bonding over homesickness is a way to make a new friend.
Also stay in touch with those from home, but not too much. Spending too much time on the phone with them or travelling home on weekends may prevent you from having the opportunities to meet new people so try resist the urge to call/email/write every five minutes and try to strike a balance between old and new friends. You can talk to new friends, your Resident Tutor, a Counsellor or someone from the Chaplaincy as all will be keen to help if you’re not feeling great.
Although this is often easier said than done, if you make the effort it really is possible to maintain a positive attitude. Your homesickness at university won’t get any better if you dwell on the negative aspects of your situation. It is important that you remind yourself of all the good things about being here and that your feelings of missing home will eventually reduce greatly or completely. You could even write a list of positive things that happen each week: new things you’ve learned, new opportunities you’ve gained, new friends you’ve made.
Also, just think! If your missing home a lot imagine how good it’s going to be when you go back to visit! Make a plan for when you will go back home and note it down, this often helps stop impulsive returns and keeps you focused on your goals in staying. Then, you can look forward to returning for a bit of a catch up but in the meantime, occupy yourself with university friends, study, societies, outings and all that is going on around you.
So keep going, set goals and remind yourself not to give up! The best way to do this is to form a plan and note down any goals you want to achieve in the next days, weeks, months or even years. If you’re finding it difficult to think of anything you want our of university life, you may wish to speak to your personal tutor about it.
It is important to stay healthy while you’re away from home. Not only will this make you feel a lot better in yourself, it will also help boost your energy levels and improve your concentration. So remember to eat well (and healthy!), get plenty of sleep and regularly drink water as all these things have an impact on the body and mind. Try to avoid eating junk food all the time and consuming too much alcohol, both will impact on your feelings of well-being. Remember the old saying, you are what you eat… Treat your body well and your body will treat you kindly back.
It won’t ever feel like your bedroom at home that you’ve lived in for years but make an effort to turn it into your space! Bring photos from home, posters etc. and make your room that bit more welcoming. Also invest in the power of the word ‘HOME’. As an experiment, try referring to your new room/flat/house as your ‘home’. That is essentially what it is, so it’s time to convince yourself! The way we word things and present them to ourselves can make a strong difference to our perceptions, so give it go!
Also invite your friends to visit, bring a piece of home to you! Invite a friend or two from back home and show them around the campus and the local area. Engage with new university friends at the same time if you can or if you haven’t made any new friends yet make use of the opportunity to talk to new people with your friends giving you more confidence in being involved in university life.
It can take time, so don’t panic or put a time on when you think you should have settled in and stopped feeling homesick. Let things take their course and continue to be positive in your new experiences. People are different in the way that they respond to change and upheaval. It can take a number of weeks before things begin to feel a bit more ‘normal’ but for some it might take even longer. Remember, patience is a virtue!
If you’re really struggling with homesickness at university, don’t be afraid to make use of your university’s student support services. Homesickness is completely normal and universities are experienced in helping students settle in. There will always be someone available to listen; you don’t have to deal with things alone.
Facing change and the unknown is difficult for anyone and it is natural to feel a bit anxious at first. It takes a lot of courage to try new things, especially when you are without your usual support network. You should take pride in your initiative, resourcefulness, and determination! While it is important to focus on your studies, remember to take time to relax and have some fun as well. Before you know it, you will be enjoying your new “home away from home” and looking forward to all of your new adventures!