Second-year student Taz remembers what it felt like to be homesick in her first few weeks at university and offers her advice for getting through it and having a great first year.
Despite all the excitement of reaching 18, becoming an adult and gaining a place at university, it’s an undeniable fact that moving away from home after spending a long well-deserved summer relaxing is going to be scary. The ‘big move’ is handled in different ways by different people; some cope impressively well with it – but it’s very likely that, at one point or another, you’re going to feel a little or A LOT (which was in my case) homesick. It’s nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. We all have at least one family member, friend, partner or pet that we’re going to miss, so if you think you’re coping with homesickness alone and are starting to beat yourself up about it, DON’T. Here are some handy tips I wish I’d been given before starting university with how to deal with homesickness.
Take photos with you
It’s little things like photos of family holidays, proms, nights out with your friends, and even that embarrassing selfie with your dog that are going to help you through your first few days, weeks and even months of being at university. Having these little reminders of home in your room can really help to push you through if you find yourself doubting your decision to attend uni or fighting the urge to get on the next train home. Just remember, it’s these people who are absolutely backing you in your decision to attend uni and are the ones who are proud of you for gaining your place (and will be even more proud of you when they get to watch you graduate!). Admittedly, when finishing my first year of university, I still had the photos on my wall that I had put up on moving in day, as well as the good luck cards I had been given when leaving home which I read on multiple occasions when feeling a bit low.
Keep in contact
Whilst I’ve heard the advice from some freshers to ‘not come home or think about it during the first year’, I’m going to completely disagree and say remember to keep in contact. Not thinking about home is pretty impossible when it’s been a part of your daily routine, having lived and spent several hours a day there for the past 18 years of your life. Keeping in contact with family and friends is essential not only for your happiness, but for theirs. If your mum’s like mine and requests a text whenever you get somewhere safely or get home in one piece from a night out, you’re going to want to keep her at the top of your ‘remember to contact’ list. Facetiming members of your family when you’ve got a quiet moment in the week can be a really nice way of reflecting on all the exciting and new things you’ve done at university and reminding yourself of the reason you chose to go there in the first place. Remember too that it’s going to be hard for your parents to suddenly not see you for several weeks at a time: so if you find yourself missing them, they’re probably missing you twice as much!
It’s also a good idea to stay in contact with your friends from home. Of course, you’re going to enjoy the buzz of meeting loads of new people in such a short space of time and getting to know them extremely well due to living together, however keeping in contact with old friends can be a bit of relief after spending so much time with your new mates. Similarly, if some of your friends have also gone to university it’s likely that they may also be a bit homesick and, in some cases, less willing to do something about it. Therefore, your ‘How are you getting on?’ text might be the first step to helping a friend get over any discomfort they may be experiencing.
Avoid hiding away
The immediate solution to homesickness for some people is tucking themselves away in bed in the middle of the day, calling home and then crying into their pillow, convincing themselves that uni isn’t the place for them. However, the ideal solution is to keep yourself preoccupied and to let yourself enjoy the new environment. That doesn’t mean you have to attend every clubbing event and bar crawl, resulting in wearing yourself out completely. For example, I remember the first time my boyfriend came up to visit me at uni for the weekend, I cried for about half an hour after he left. Nevertheless, later on that evening I spent a couple of hours watching ‘I’m a Celebrity’ with a few of my flatmates down in our communal room, eating too many sweets and laughing about our memories of the freshers’ events the week before. This was the first time I realised it was probably my decision to lock myself in my room thinking about nothing BUT home which had caused me to feel so down in the first place. Don’t be afraid to be the one to post to the flat group chat ‘Anyone fancy watching a film?’ because it’s likely you won’t be the only one missing having family or other familiar faces to talk to all of the time!
Whilst most homesickness takes time and persistence to overcome, there are some cases where you might need a helping hand. All universities offer help and advice services for university students for absolutely anything; no matter how big or small. And all of it is kept confidential. If you find yourself really struggling to deal with your homesickness or are getting overwhelmed by the changing routine, build-up of work or challenge of balancing a part-time job with your degree work, these services are here to help you overcome these difficulties. Don’t be afraid to reach out to university support staff, as I can assure you all they will do is make you feel better about your situation. To seek this advice at UoR, visit the Support Services page on the University’s website to find out who your Student Support Coordinator is.
I hope this advice helps you when starting university to help tackle any anxiety or homesickness. If you remember to keep both old and new friends close and to keep a strong, level-headed attitude towards this new, big step you’ll be fine. Enjoy your first year at university and take every new opportunity and challenge in your stride. Good luck!