Tackling homesickness at university

Homesickness is defined as a feeling of distress or unhappiness when you’re away from home. This can often make you feel isolated from others when, in actual fact, the likelihood is that most students will experience this at some point during their degree.

According to the National Union of Students, 50-70% of university students experience homesickness. It’s not just freshers, either – even second years and third years can get homesick from time to time. When you’re already stressed about deadlines and exams, it can be frustrating to have to deal with missing home as well.

So here’s a guide to help you combat homesickness, regardless of what year you are in:

Symptoms

You cry – a lot

There doesn’t necessarily have to be a trigger to set you off; sometimes you just need an emotional release.

Trouble sleeping

This can be because your brain refuses to switch off, or simply because you don’t feel settled in your new accommodation.

Changes in your appetite

This varies from person to person. Some students comfort eat, while others can lose their appetite all together, or even experience feelings of nausea.

Headaches

Headaches are normal, but if they become a frequent occurrence, this is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. They are sometimes accompanied by dizziness.

Your work is suffering

This is usually due to a lack of concentration; it can be hard to focus on your degree when your mind is somewhere else.

Remedies

Decorate you room

Pack up some decorations from home and bring them with you. This doesn’t mean that you make your new bedroom an exact replica of your old one – this would probably make you feel worse. Just a few bits of memorabilia will give your new place a sense of familiarity, which can help combat homesickness.

Keep in touch

Whether it’s through the means of Skype, Face Time or simply a weekly phone call, it’s important to keep in touch with your family. Not only will this help you, but it will put your parents’ minds at ease as well. Don’t forget that they miss you too.

Join societies

University societies are a fantastic way to meet new people, as well as giving you a chance to try out activities you’ve never considered before. Not only will this improve your confidence, but it will also help you build a network of friends outside of your house/flat. One of the great things about university societies is that they accept all years – so if you missed out on joining any during your first year, go ahead and join some in your second year.

Eat healthily

This one is easier said than done, especially when presented with tons of student discounts on local takeaways. Nevertheless, all that junk food will have a negative effect on your mood, making it harder to tackle feelings of homesickness.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Your university’s student support system is there for a reason. Don’t be afraid to approach them if you’re feeling overwhelmed; they are professionals and will be able to advise you on what steps to take next.

What can others do to help?

Sometimes people require a little nudge from others to deal with homesickness. If your house/flatmate is experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned previously, there are several things you can do to help. Even something as simple as talking can be very effective. Most students lived with their parents before moving to university, so there was always someone there to listen. Now, however, the people you live with are your first point of contact if you have a problem. This means that it’s very important to listen to each other, especially when one of you is struggling with homesickness.

Another way to help your homesick house/flatmate is to make sure that your accommodation is as welcoming as possible. When they come back from university, offer to make them a cup of tea and ask about their day. By taking a genuine interest in that person’s life, you’re letting them know that you care about them and that your accommodation is a place of reassurance. This makes it more likely for them to approach you if they’re feeling low.

Notes for parents

Having your child move out was never going to be easy. Despite your jokes about how relaxing life is now that they’re gone, it can be difficult to adjust to a quiet house. Nevertheless, this is an important step in your child’s development and you must let it run its course. Refrain from contacting them every day, as this can worsen the effects of homesickness. Generally speaking, it’s best to wait for them to contact you – this means you’ll be able to gauge how often they require contact with home. That being said, it’s always pleasant to receive an occasional text or a phone call, just to reassure them that you’re still thinking about them.

Photo Credit: alexandria lomanno via Compfight cc

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Jessica Briscoe

Creative Writing student at Bath Spa with a passion for novel writing and films.

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