Wellbeing Champion Natalie shares her tips on overcoming homesickness…
Welcome to Cardiff! Moving away from home and coming to university… we’ve all heard stories about how great living on your own for the first time is. You can go out on weekdays, binge watch TV series’ or have two pints of Ben & Jerry’s for dinner. Or all three! Talk about living the student high life.
However, amongst the excitement of being on your own and having all the autonomy, some people may also notice an increase in negative feelings that come with the new surroundings: homesickness. Homesickness is normal, and a lot of people experience it (though they may not talk about it).
Are you experiencing homesickness? Here are a few symptoms:
- Feeling sad, lonely and helpless
- Depressive thoughts, anxiety and panic attacks
- Sense of insecurity
- Frequent mood swings
- Isolation – feeling like you don’t belong and wanting to leave
- Loss of confidence and not being able to enjoy new experiences fully
- Missing home and feeling depressed
- Lack of concentration
- Sleep disturbance and irritability
- Headache, stomach aches, nausea, fatigue or loss of appetite
- Trembling and feeling either too hot or too cold
- Waves of emotions
If you are experiencing symptoms of homesickness, it’s not your fault. You have just left a familiar place and moving into a new environment is a big change. Change can be daunting and disorientating, you’re bound to miss home and family. It’s entirely reasonable to be experiencing these feelings.
As described by an international student at Cardiff University: “I think that homesickness is an emotion that is really close to nostalgia and deep sadness. It is a strange type of pain that you link to a place or to people. And yes, for me it is something like grief as if you have lost the things you care most about.”
However, there is one good thing about homesickness: it can be conquered.
Tips to help you cope with homesickness in Cardiff…
Here are my tips on coping with homesickness. You can also try the 20 top tips for dealing with homesickness.
Keep in touch with friends and family
There are many great ways of keeping in touch, including phone calls, emails, Skype, FaceTime and Google Plus. Video conference is a great option as it allows you to see familiar settings. Planning a home visit or encouraging friends and family to come visit could also help you settle in better.
Appreciate your new surroundings
Get to know your flatmates and course mates, or join a sport club or society to take your mind off things. Joining a society especially can be extremely helpful in overcoming homesickness. Whether it’s something you have always wanted to try out or it’s something you would like to continue, there are many options available at Cardiff University. You can find a list of sport clubs available here, and the societies available here.
The city of Cardiff also has a lot to offer, including many greeneries and historical places. Click here to see a list of things to do in Cardiff.
Keep familiar things around
Continue doing things that you have always enjoyed doing.
Keeping photos and favourite possessions can give you comfort while you adjust.
Make food that reminds you of your home.
Join societies with people from the same country, with the same religion or who have similar interests.
Practice self-care and give yourself time
You don’t have to adjust right away, be kind to yourself and know that it is normal to be experiencing homesickness. You do not have to rush into making any decisions about leaving or staying. If everything seems overwhelming, just take it a day at a time. Getting enough sleep, eating healthily and establishing a routine with a good work-leisure balance are also important, as it gives you a sense of control over what’s happening in your life. Practising mindfulness exercises is great for becoming aware of your negative thoughts and learning to coping with them. The university also offers Mindfulness group sessions, where you meet once a week in a group with others who are also experiencing similar feelings as you.
Talk to someone
Talk to someone about how you are feeling, whether it is a friend, tutor, chaplain, GP or Cardiff University’s Student Support Service. Seek help before the problem grows large. There are also workshops aimed to target homesickness available for you, check what’s on by searching ‘Group therapy’ on the intranet, or clicking here.
If you are finding it difficult to cope with the overwhelming feelings on your own, Cardiff University also offers support at the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing centre. It is a confidential service for information, advice and guidance where you have the option of having one-to-one appointments or coming to drop-in sessions (Mon-Fri at 3pm).
Get help with Finding your Feet
Finding your Feet is a workshop which aims to help students tackle the adverse effects of homesickness. The workshop will help students to understand what homesickness is and to provide tips and strategies on how to deal with these feelings, helping them to remain happier at university.
The workshop will take place on Monday 10 October, 2pm – 3:30pm in the Sir Donald Walters Boardroom in the Students’ Union. You can sign up or find out more here.
Keep a good balance
Even though freshers’ week has come and gone and University life has well and truly started, that doesn’t mean that you won’t still feel homesick. About 70-80% of students feel homesick at some point, whether you are in your first, second or third year. Watch our Freshers’ Support video to listen some tips from Rachel, from the Student Wellbeing Team, about how to settle into university life when you away from home.
Contact us in Counselling Health & Wellbeing
If you are struggling to settle in to your Studies and Student Life, please know Cardiff University Support Services are here for you – there is no problem too big or too small and we would be happy to provide you with some support. We offer a range of flexible support options including:
- Counselling and Wellbeing Appointments
- Face to Face, Online or Telephone
- Wellbeing Walk-in: Drop-in Service running Monday to Friday
- Wellbeing Workshops
- Therapeutic Groups
- Wellbeing Champion Support
- Self-help resources
Bookable appointments are available via our online referral questionnaire. We also offer a Wellbeing Walk-In Service, Monday to Friday, 3pm to 3.45pm and Wednesday mornings, 9.30am to 10.15am, at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place. We also hold a walk-in service at our Student Support Centre in Cardigan House at the Heath, on Wednesday afternoons 3pm to 3.45pm.
Watch our video and see for yourself that we have friendly and approachable staff. Staff who are able to listen to you non-judgmentally, in a safe and confidential space.
If talking to a member of staff is something you are not sure about, why not chat to one of our Student Wellbeing Champions. They are trained student volunteers who can signpost you to support, offer you a peer ear and give you basic health and wellbeing advice. If you would like to see our Champions in action, check out their video.
If you are worried that you are experiencing physical symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have a GP, please contact NHS Wales on 0845 46 47 or check out their website to view all of your GP options. The University also has its own GP Practice – Park Place Surgery for those in their catchment area.
Your feedback and help please
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Natalie, Wellbeing Champion.
Your Student Life, Supported.
The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including:Advice & Money, Careers & Employability, Counselling, Health & Wellbeing, Disability & Dyslexia and International Student Support.
For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.