Most of us are familiar with the term and could probably describe it to someone else if asked.  We know that leaving behind familiar people and places can mean that we miss them and find it difficult to settle down in a new place and meet new people.  There are other things we may miss as well, such as a much loved pet or the old routine of our former life.  Being established in a place and having things to do every day keeps us busy and gives us a sense of ‘having’ to do certain things.  This can all be absent at the start of a new phase of life in a new place.

If university was looked forward to with eagerness and excitement, then the experience of homesickness may be a shock, something that was not bargained for.  Perhaps you think you “should” be happy because people say you will have the time of your life and that university offers you wonderful opportunities.  Of course, the reality can feel very different, especially in the early weeks.

Many people have worries at first, often about making friends.  It can be tempting to compare new friendships with the established ones we may have built up over several years.  These old relationships can be deep and may feel very secure and comfortable.  With old friends, being ourselves is simple whereas with new friendships effort is needed for them to develop, and we may experience anxiety about being liked or judged.  Other worries may include the difficulty of the work, or perhaps there are financial concerns and the need to find part-time work.

Being away from home requires that we learn to become more self-reliant, however, as there are lots of new experiences and it can be a time of great change it is likely to be challenging.

With such a lot of change to handle, it is not surprising that some feel anxious or tearful and long for the familiarity of home and all that goes with it.

Will it always feel like this?

Usually homesickness is temporary and many are aware of an improvement within a short period of time and this gives hope that soon all feelings of homesickness will disappear.  For others it takes longer or may return briefly after a visit home.

  1. Fortunately, there are things that can help with settling in and coping with homesickness.  
  2. Make your room as comfortable and welcoming as you can.  Personal touches, including   favourite things from home, give the place an identity and make it a good place to be.       
  3. Get to know where you are.  Not knowing anything about your surroundings tends to add to homesickness so make the effort to get to know the parts of the university you will need to use as soon as you can.  The same goes for the world off campus; the sooner you know where you will shop, where you will socialize, etc., the easier it will be.    
  4. Meeting tutors and finding out about your course can help you deal with worries about what will be expected of you and what staff will be like.  
  5. Explore the Learning Resources Centre (library) and find out where the books and other materials related to your course are kept.
  6. Check out the Students’ Union for social life and also find out about the other services they provide for students.
  7. Establish a routine.  This will be one of the main things missing from your early days at university; each day will be different.  You may appear to have plenty of free time when you look at your timetable and may feel ‘lost’ until you begin adding regular activities.  A routine gives your life a rhythm again, making it more predictable and this in turn can lead to feeling more secure and in control.
  8. Give yourself time to settle in; decide to review how you’re doing in a week – you may well feel more settled then.  Realise your feelings are quite natural.
  9. Maybe you could invite your family or friends to visit you here so that you can share your new life with them.  In that way, when you talk to them about university in the future, they will have a better idea of what you are talking about and the conversation will be more meaningful for all.  This helps bridge the gap between two important aspects of your life.

 

Sometimes homesickness can be prolonged.  There could be a particular reason for this, such as changes going on at home which you feel cut off from, or it may continue for no apparent reason.  However, talking about this can help.  New friends may have experienced some of these feelings and could be very supportive now.  Your RA. may also be able to listen and offer encouragement if you are living in halls. 

If you would like more help after reading this leaflet, consider approaching the University Counselling Service for free one-to-one professional counselling.  You can arrange an appointment with a counsellor at either City or Walsall campuses by ringing our administrator, Kully, on 01902 322572.  Alternatively, call in at our reception, ground floor, ML Building, Molineux Quarter, City Campus, where the University Counselling Service is based.  One session may be all that you need, or you can come back for more.

If you are an International student you may want to attend our workshop designed specifically with you in mind, entitled ‘Top tips – making the most of your time here at University’, on 9th October 2015, 2-4pm  in the Chaplaincy.  Call 01902 322572 to find out more and book a place.

All students may be interested in our workshops, details of which you can be found here.