For most of us, university is a chance to broaden our horizons. We are given a chance to branch out from home and to see the world with our own eyes – in essence, to steer our own ship, if you wish to describe it so. I am one of these students, currently studying in Huddersfield despite being born and raised in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
But while for most of us moving away is barely an afterthought, for the rest of us, it is a serious issue. Homesickness affects many students and if left to fester it can cause pretty serious side-effects; feelings of isolation, anxiety attacks and depression are usually common. Usually though homesick students are gripped by fear of the unknown.
I should know.
When I first moved to Huddersfield, my initial excitement very quickly gave way to fear and isolation. Seeing my family depart made me realise that I was now alone in what may as well have been a foreign country, and despite the support of my flatmates this feeling remained for quite some time. Fresher’s Week served merely to magnify my homesickness – having a good time, yes, but with people I still hardly knew in a city I had never been to before. For the first time in my life I felt unbelievably small.
It’s tough. Especially come the first days of university. Will people like me? Will they understand my accent? (One I can definitely relate to this; my local dialect at first caused serious misunderstandings. Occasionally still does.) And when I discovered that most of my course mates were relatively local to the university and city, my feelings of loneliness were only deepened.
But trust me when I tell you that the first few weeks are always the hardest. Adjusting to not having your family around you, replaced by people you never even knew existed until recently. Coping with new customs, a different culture is never easy. Even today I still find myself confused by the locals.
Moving home also equals independence. And this can only worsen homesickness. Doing things you possibly never had to before, such as your own washing and ironing. It’s the small things that add up, and boy do they add up when you’re far from home. For my first few weeks I was depressed, not enjoying the course because I couldn’t – how could I when I felt so out of place. I yearned to be back home and there was a time when I was mere minutes from making that decision.
But now, I’m glad that I didn’t (sort of) because I now feel right at home. But how? How did I go from such a depressed outsider back to my usual self? For me (but also in general) two things my friends:
1. Talk about your feelings
2. Put yourself out there
Despite my homesickness I had made friends on my course. A lot, actually. Which can only help your confidence to know that people like you despite being “different”. My honest nature decided it would be best to tell them how I felt, and so I did. They were incredibly supportive and understanding of the way that I was feeling. Some of them even did things to make me feel at home, by buying me Newcastle-related things which I found at first offensive but then realised it was to make me feel better. And that meant a lot.
But first and foremost, the reason I got my friends was because I put myself out there. I put on a smile and stayed true to myself. And really, that’s the best thing you can do in this situation. Now I’m not trying to make it sound easy. It’s not, and for me it wasn’t. But it was being myself that I first got recognised by some of my course mates, who are know my good friends here (and hopefully flatmates next year too).
I know that the road from homesickness is a long and hard one. I still occasionally get horrific pangs of homesickness. But it’s natural to have them. Try to remember that you will not be the only one who feels this way. Knowing that by feeling alone, you aren’t alone, can sometimes be the most reassuring thing to hear.