As much as we’d all love to gloat about reaching 18, becoming an adult and on top of this gaining a place at a university, it’s an undeniable fact that moving away from home after spending a long well-deserved summer relaxing (half of it in the comfort of your bed watching Netflix) is going to be scary. The ‘big move’ is coped with in many different ways by different people; some coping impressively well with it and dealing with that ‘you can go now mum and dad’ moment (when they leave you in your new accommodation for the first time) like absolute warriors. But let’s get one thing straight. No amount of confidence, bravery or determination to do well at uni is going to take away the fact that you’re going to feel a little or A LOT (which was in my case) homesick. And 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’s some handy tips I wished I’d been given before starting my first term at university with how to deal with homesickness.
Take photos with you
Yes, the thought of having of photo of your mum and dad on your bedside table can be a little disconcerting and the last thing you’d have on your to do list for making a first impression to your flatmates. But. 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. So, you can throw that tip out of the window straight away. Keeping in contact with family and friends is essential not only for your happiness, but for their’s. 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 a member/s 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. Also remember, 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 the amount!
Another good idea is to stay in contact with your friends from home. Of course, you’re going to have 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. Only to realise later that they were either just a bit ‘hangry’, not feeling so great or tired due to the late one the night before. There are several other symptoms such as these which can lead students to convince themselves that they’re homesick and uni just isn’t the place for them. However, the ideal solution to such feelings is to keep yourself preoccupied and to let yourself enjoy the new environment. And 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 embarrassing drunken moments from 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 of 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. It is the staff working for these services who have an absolute priority to ensure that all students are having the best time possible and are in a stable emotional state to do as well as they can in their studies. 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 people are here to help you plan what you can do to overcome these difficulties. Don’t be afraid to reach out to these services as I can assure you all they will do is make you feel better about your situation.
Hopefully somewhere amongst this article there’s something that you are able to take with 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!