If you're suffering from homesickness, don't feel alone - many new university students experience it too. Here's how to cope.
Commonly it is the first few days or weeks after arriving at university which are the most difficult. However it can be experienced at any time during the course.
What is homesickness?
Starting university generates both excitement and anxiety about the move, studying and meeting new people. For some, this apprehension is quickly overcome as you adapt to a new environment; for others the transition takes longer and sometimes emerges as homesickness where you become preoccupied with thoughts of home.
Suddenly, you find that, instead of being a central person in a small unit with plenty of peripheral activities and friends, you have become an anonymous member of a five thousand plus community where you don't know anyone. You feel shaken and lonely and you long for the secure and the familiar. Sometimes these emotions are completely overwhelming. Tasks that would normally have been easy, can suddenly seem quite a challenge, or even feel impossible without your usual framework of support.
Why am I so homesick?
- The distance from home - the further you go the worse it maybe
- A sense of anticlimax - you have finally arrived at university after working towards it for so long
- Unhappiness when things are different to your expectations of student life
- A heavy workload
- Those who are homesick often feel they have no control over their environment, and that they are not identified with it or committed to the university or their place in it.
Signs of homesickness
Those who experience homesickness might notice an increase in:
What might help?
- Talk to someone. If you haven't yet made friends then try a tutor, supervisor, chaplain, nurse or counsellor.
- Keep in contact with home but make a real effort to make new friends at uni too. Decide whether the best policy for you is to have frequent contact with home (because contact makes you feel better), or little contact (because contact makes you feel worse). Think carefully about whether or not to go home at weekends. Some students find it helps to ease the transition; others find the constant readjustment makes them feel worse.
- Make a real effort to join societies/activities and to make at least one or two friends. This might feel very difficult, but the more you feel part of campus life, the less homesick you will feel.
- Be realistic about what to expect from your university and from yourself. Establish a balance between work and leisure: you are NOT expected to work ALL the time - you would soon burn out. On the other hand, if you don't put in enough time on work, you can very quickly get behind, which only adds to the stresses.
- Try to establish a routine as soon as possible. The fuller your days are, the less time you will have to feel homesick or lonely.
- Remember to get enough food and sleep.
- Make contacts and friends by joining one of the many college societies. There is usually a wide range on offer so you are very likely to find something that suits your particular interests. You may have been down to the Freshers' Fayre or you can check notice boards in the union for more information.
- Give yourself time to adjust: you don't have to get everything right straight away. Nor do you have to rush into making major decisions about staying or leaving.
If it gets really bad:
- Think about whether the course, university and/or time is right for you. It's not a failure to leave and take another direction. Those who do leave mostly find another course or university with which they are happy, perhaps after taking a year out. Talk your tutor, a career advisor and your LEA before making any drastic decisions.
- Sometimes it helps to share feelings of homesickness. Think about talking to the Welfare Officer at the SU.
- If you stop being able to do normal social and academic things, seek professional help either from your doctor (GP) or the student counselling service.
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