Counsellor Sarah Barr shares guidance for students adjusting to a new life away from home.
Moving away for university is a big transition, whether you’ve come from the other side of the world or down the road.
If you’re suffering from homesickness, just remember you’re not the only one.
Most first year students will experience some level of homesickness. While this can fade after a few weeks.
Sometimes it can take longer. I remember it took me to nearly the end of October to feel settled and for the homesickness to go.
Symptoms of homesickness can include:
- Missing home
- Feeling lonely or anxious
- Feeling lost
- Thinking a lot about the past
- Finding it hard to concentrate
- Feeling physically sick
- Crying a lot.
If like me it does take you a little bit longer I have listed some tips below, that may be useful in helping you to tackle homesickness:
1. Be a tourist
When you arrive at your new home, be a tourist for a day. Visit the sites and get to know the area. This will help you feel settled and at ease. One of the main reasons we feel homesick is often to do with being in unfamiliar surroundings, so it’s a great idea to set aside some time to explore.
2. Don’t isolate yourself
Try not to isolate yourself in your room. Homesickness comes from the human need for connection, love and security. So by sitting by yourself you may be in fact be increasing the feelings of homesickness.
Spending time with your room/house mates and students from your course is a great distraction from homesickness. So say YES! to meeting up and getting out and about. Surrounding yourself with people can be a great distraction from homesickness.
3. Go easy on yourself
It is totally normal to feel homesick and it is not a sign of weakness. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself and catch the negative self-talk and thoughts.
You do not have to get everything done or right straight away. Instead give yourself some praise. You have accomplished a lot over the past few months, be proud of this.
Feeling homesick isn’t a weakness, nor is it something you should beat yourself up about. Missing home is something that affects most students.
4. Take care of yourself
When we feel drained or tired the symptoms of homesickness can get worse. By looking after your body through eating healthily, drinking plenty of water and sleeping will help.
If you are feeling homesick, be careful if drinking alcohol. Alcohol can have an effect on how you feel physically and emotionally.
Check out if the college/university has a gym or if a local gym has student discount. Exercise is a great coping tool. When we exercise we release chemicals called endorphin’s in our body. This is our body’s natural feel-good chemical, helping with the symptoms of homesickness
5.Create you own space
Whether you have your own bedroom or sharing a room create your own space. By bringing some home comforts, such as your favourite photo or teddy bear. We all have objects that make us feel comforted when we’re not feeling our best.
Whatever your comfort things are, bring them with you.
Writing down how our day went can really help up to figure out our thoughts. By making a list of 3 positive things that happened that day, can really help to shift your thought pattern to a more positive one. Homesickness like anxiety is prone to negative thinking.
There is a great journal available online on Moss Cottage called ‘One line a day’. This journal asks you to write one line every day for five years. Helping you manage your thoughts and also a nice keepsake to look back on.
Setting up a routine will help you adjust to your new environment. Use the opportunity, do something new or keep up a hobby or interest.
Or it can be creating a study timetable or watching your favourite TV show. This may help boost your mood
8. Keep in touch (but not too much)
Whether it’s a phone call, a Whatsapp group chat or a letter in the post, keeping in touch with your friends and family helps to make you feel more part of things back home.
However, keeping in touch too much can actually make you feel more homesick. Try not be communicating with people back home more than you are with people at university.
When we are five we can simply ask another five year old “do you want to be my friend?”, but at 17,18 or 19 it can be a little bit awkward.
Building new friendships takes time, like any relationship. However by being open and saying ‘yes’ to invites whether it is going for a coffee, to the library or a night out. You will quickly build a friendship, memories and stories together.
10. Talk to a Counsellor
Most students find their homesickness fades and do not need counselling. However, if homesickness is affecting your ability to take part in uni life, contacting your university counselling service is an option.
The jump from school to university can be a big change and there is no shame in asking for a little bit of support.
Remember it’s normal. Feeling low, stressed and anxious are all part of moving away.
It takes time to feel settled. There is always a period of ‘adjustment’ that people go through when faced with any change which usually includes feeling initially happy, then lonely, then unhappy, then settled, confident and content!