How to cope with feeling homesick
You may be one of those students who has been desperate to fly the nest and gain some independence. On the other hand, you could be worried about how you’re going to cope being away from home and your family and friends. But starting university can be a big transition, so unsurprisingly more than half of university students experience homesickness - so you’re not alone if you’re missing home.
Research from the National Union of Students shows that between 50 and 70% of UK students experience homesickness to some extent within their first two or three weeks, particularly those who've moved far away from home.
Home vs Away
Whether you’ve come from the other side of the world or just down the road, it’s only natural to miss familiar surroundings.
When I went to university I decided to study as close to home as I could (because I’m a bit of a home bird!) Luckily for me, the course I wanted to do was at university only an hour’s drive from my home, yet I was still worried about how I would manage.
I will always remember the day my parents dropped me off at university. It was emotional to say the least – and not just for me (spare a thought for your parents and guardians too when you leave home as ‘empty nest syndrome’ can kick in!).
I suppose the most important message of all is that homesickness is definitely not a weakness or something you should punish yourself for feeling. There are lots of ways to help you feel better. I found that decorating my university bedroom with bits and bobs from home really helped (more of my tips below), but what didn’t help me was that I used to call home ALL the time in the first few months which made the homesickness worse.
Staying in touch
Nowadays, there are so many more ways you can keep in touch with family and friends back home – WhatsApp, Facebook, etc – but my advice is don’t get sucked into a cycle of being on the phone or you computer to back home 24/7. Not only will it take up all the time you could be spending going out, making new friends and settling in, you could become isolated and end up wanting to just pack up and go home.
So if you do happen to be feeling homesick, here are a few of my top tips below:
- Don’t spend all your time in your room alone. It might be tempting to stay in your room calling people back home, spending time on your computer etc, but isolating yourself will make things worse. Keeping my bedroom door wedged open helped me make new friends as they could pop in when they were passing going to their own rooms.
- Keep busy. Your course will keep you busy but at times when you feel you need a break but have nothing to do and are all alone, see what your other housemates are up to. Arrange to go out, even if it’s just for a walk round campus, getting out of your room and not staying in alone is important.
- Talk about how you’re feeling with others. Mixing with others in your halls or student house from day one is important and it’s more than likely some of them are feeling homesick as well. Chat about how you’re feeling. At Wrexham Glyndwr University we have a student services support team (there will hopefully be one at your university too) who you can speak to if you don’t want to talk to your housemates. The team offers you study support as and also health and wellbeing help.
- Explore the area: Set some time to familiarise yourself with your new surroundings. Homesickness tends to be worse when you’re not familiar with a place. Do some sightseeing with your house or course mates, go on a campus tour around the uni, check out the local tourist information office (or online) to find out top attractions in the area.
- Pack some favourite things: Pictures of loved ones, your favourite teddy (yes, you read right, and no, you’re not going to be teased for bringing a cuddly toy to uni. I don’t know anyone who didn’t bring one when I was a student), stashes of your favourite treats (mine were Skittles), anything that makes you feel happy and at home – oh and not your parents’ TV, unless they are generous and let you take it (then remember to get a TV license!).
- Ask for help. The jump from A-levels can be tough but universities will offer study support whether it is a dedicated, separate team or lecturers on your course. Financial and wellbeing help and advice will also be available.
- Don’t give up. There were times when I really missed home and thought about just giving up. But once I had settled in (after a few months), got stuck into my course, made friends and had a good social life, I didn’t have time to miss home as much. I still went home to visit, just not as often.
- Things will get better. If you are feeling homesick now, it’s likely that once you settle in things will improve. If not, remember, there is always help out there if you are struggling. Don’t suffer alone.
Finally, if university isn’t right for you at the moment, there’s no shame in exploring other options which might work better for you right now. Good luck!
PS. You can get in touch and tweet us your own tips on how to cope with being homesick to @glyndwruni