Dealing with homesickness
5 minute read
It’s easy to feel homesick when you’ve headed off to university. Whether it’s your first time leaving home or you’re a veteran student, you might experience feelings of missing friends, family, and familiar surroundings. Being thrust into a new environment, and perhaps one that hasn’t met your expectations, is challenging: it partly accounts for why up to 75% of students will feel homesick at some point.
There are plenty of thoughts related to homesickness. Things like wondering ‘why am I here’, ‘why does nobody else feel this way’, and ‘I miss my family so much’ are common spirals a student may find themselves in. Homesickness is perfectly natural, and lots of people will be feeling the same; they are probably just hiding it because it’s something that we’re often uncomfortable talking openly about
How do I cope with homesickness?
Whilst being homesick can feel overwhelming, there are ways to help mitigate the challenge it poses. Firstly, it’s important not to be too hard on yourself. You’re not the only person who’s felt this way, and it’s a perfectly normal part of the student experience: if anything, you’d be less likely to miss nothing about home than to miss something. Remembering this will help to rationalise the way you’re feeling. It’s also important to keep in mind that home is always there for you to call or visit. Even if you’re not constantly on the phone with friends and family back home, the simple knowledge that you could be is often just as useful. Although, if you find yourself feeling worse after visiting home, it might be worth limiting this for a while, just until you’re feeling more settled.
Bringing some home comforts can also help you feel more settled when you’re away. This could be anything that reminds you of home: a blanket, pictures from your walls, or a favourite cuddly toy (don’t worry, you won’t be the only one). Helping make your environment feel more familiar will alleviate feelings of homesickness, and brings some continuity with you to university.
Keep yourself busy
It stands to reason that if your mind is occupied, then you won’t be thinking about home. So it’s a good thing there’s so much to throw yourself into at university. From societies to new friends, relationships, and accommodations, there’s a lot to think about that’ll help keep you distracted. Sports are a great distraction with proven benefits to both mental and physical wellbeing, so joining a team is a useful way to combat your homesickness. You’ll make some great friends in the process, too. There are also plenty of options to volunteer at most universities, and this is another way to overcome many forms of wellbeing issues; plus, you’ll get to help people that really need it.
Maybe the most obvious thing to invest your time into is your course. That’s why you’re there, after all. You’re probably studying something you care about, so spending time reading and researching that area will be rewarding, and will stop you from thinking about home too much. It’s important to consider the flip side of this, though: are you finding the course too difficult? If so, this could be contributing to feelings of homesickness and making them worse - the safety of home may be more appealing than ever. In these cases, it’s important to seek help, and there are many places you could find it. The teachers on your course are a good place to start, but your university may also have dedicated study skills teams to support you. If you’re finding the course particularly distressing, you can also seek mental wellbeing support from free sources such as Shout UK.
Much like it was for E.T., sometimes the option of phoning home is the best one. As touched upon earlier, at points the best cure for homesickness is a dose of home, and calling some friends or family might be the easiest way to do this. Don’t think just because now you’re at university you need to sever all ties with the people back home; you can call them as much as you want if it’s helping you. For some students it might be challenging to call and say you’re struggling. In these cases it may be better to text some people close to you and ask them to reach out, which will help facilitate a discussion about how you’re feeling.
Relax, you’re doing fine
If you take away one thing from this, let it be that what you’re feeling is totally normal. Homesickness affects a majority of students, and is something that will get easier with time. There’s a good chance you’ll be laughing about it shortly. In the meantime, there’s plenty of ways to distract yourself from thoughts of home and wanting to get away from university - you need to take a step back and decide which is best for you.