Amy, from our Counselling, Health & Team, talks about dealing with homesickness.
The transition for students when starting university can be smooth for some and really tough for others. It’s not surprising that some students find the change difficult. Some will also have the added challenge of missing home or struggling with adapting to a new culture. Homesickness can involve missing your family and your friends, but it’s also about losing the sense of familiarity you feel when you’re at home, and the realisation that family life is carrying on without you. Homesickness doesn’t just affect new students either. Second, third, fourth or even PhD students can get homesick.
What are the signs?
- Feeling sad, lonely and helpless
- Feeling insecure
- Isolation – feeling like you don’t belong and wanting to leave
- Missing home and feeling depressed
- Loss of confidence and not being able to enjoy new experiences fully
- Frequent mood swings
- Depressive thoughts, anxiety or panic attacks
- 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
You may feel more homesick if:
- You are a long way from home
- You are experiencing an anti-climax, after the build up to arriving at university
- You are unsure about your decision to come to university
- If your expectations of university are not being met
- If you are feeling pressured due to the increase in workload
- If family/friends at home are unwell or unhappy
- There is a big contrast in lifestyle, between home and Uni
If this sounds familiar to you then please know that you are not alone and that these feelings are completely normal. Often feelings of homesickness will pass after the first few weeks of being here. This might seem like a really long time to be feeling this way, but if you can stick it out, it will hopefully give you time to settle in. Why not take a look at some of our top tips to help you, and try to pick one that you can try out today.
Top tips to counter homesickness
- Talk to someone. If you haven’t yet made friends here, then try talking to a tutor, supervisor, chaplain or a member of the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Team. We would be more than happy to speak to you about how you are feeling.
- Keep in touch. Keep in contact with the people you have left behind. Arrange a time to go back to see them, perhaps after a few weeks, but also give yourself time to get involved here too. Sometimes looking at the door that has been closed prevents you from looking at the doors that are being opened.
- Be open-minded. Sometimes expecting too much can be part of the problem… Approaching university life with an open mind can be your best bet. If you are expecting things to be a certain way it can be more difficult to deal with them when they are not.
- Be realistic about what to expect from yourself. Establish a balance between work and leisure. You are NOT expected to work ALL the time – you would soon burn out. On the other hand, if you don’t put in enough time for work, you can get behind, which adds to stress!
- Invite friends and family. Encourage friends and family to come and see you in your new setting.
- Refrain from mind-reading. Remember that many other people will be sharing similar feelings, although you may assume that they are doing fine! (You can’t read their minds – just as they can’t read yours!)
- Accept how you feel. You are allowed to feel sad and homesick and you are also allowed to enjoy yourself – it isn’t being disloyal to those you miss!
- Access help. If work is proving too difficult, can you improve your study skills or your organisation of time and work so that you gain satisfaction from what you do? There may be people in your School who can help in this area, such as your Tutor or Supervisor. You could also use our Academic Study Skills classes which can help you to get used to new ways of thinking and working.
- Eat and Sleep. Remember to get enough food and sleep! These affect us emotionally, as well as physically.
- Meet others. Make contacts and friends through shared activities such as sport or other interests. If you are not sure where to start, why not come along to our Walking to Wellbeing? This hour-long walk with fellow students runs fortnightly on Wednesday afternoons from 2pm (outside Subway on Park Place. Our first Walk will be on Wednesday 11th October 2016.
- Give yourself time to adjust. You don’t have to get everything right straight away. Nor do you have to rush into making major decisions about staying or leaving.
- Try something new: Being active and curious about university Life can be useful…. Try something new in the city or get to know a particular place in town. Getting familiar with things can help you settle. Why not take a look at the Union’s Give it a Go programme, which is full of amazing activities.
- Remember it’s normal. Times of feeling low, stressed and anxious are part and parcel of moving away. There is always a period of ‘adjustment’ that people go through when faced with change, which usually includes feeling initially happy, then lonely, then unhappy, then settled, confident and content!
- Break down the term. Writing a plan for the semester or splitting the year into smaller sections can help you plan your time and also helps you to look forward to when you are next going home. Things generally seem more manageable when your break them down in to smaller steps.
- Remind yourself. Think about why you were initially excited to come to uni. Before making big decisions it can sometimes be useful to think about the advantages/disadvantages of staying versus the advantages/disadvantages of leaving!
- Think of long-term gains. Don’t only think about the short-term fix to homesickness. Students often drop out of university without thinking about the long-term consequences of their decision. For some students it is the right thing to do whereas for others this feeling passes. Please speak to our Advice and Money Team if you are thinking of leaving, as you still may have to pay part of your fees or rent.
- Make yourself at home. Make your room as comfortable as possible. Unpack and decorate with some comforts from home.
- Say yes. That phrase ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ can be pretty useful. Sometimes going along with things even when you are not entirely sold on them can make a big difference.
- Be wise. Think about the coping strategies you use to deal with how you are feeling. It can be really tempting to use short-term fixes like drinking alcohol. when you are not in a familiar environment and feeling low you may be putting yourself more at risk. Also, what feels like the right thing to do in the moment or in the short-term does not always provide a solution to the problem in the long-term.
- Self-soothe. Use your senses to help manage a dip in mood. Sight, sound, taste, smell and touch are all great ways of regulating emotions. For example, getting out and about and looking at ‘the great outdoors’, listening to relaxing music, having a cup of tea, the smell of your favourite perfume or having a hot shower/bath. Simple, but often effective!
Watch our video, ‘Freshers’ Support’
Contact the Counselling Health & Wellbeing Service
If you are experiencing any kind of emotional distress, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service who can offer support to anybody experiencing any sort of difficulty, however big or small.
The Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service offer booked appointments via an online referral questionnaire, in which friendly, approachable staff can offer you non-judgmental support in a safe and confidential space. They also offer a daily Wellbeing Walk-In Service (3pm-3.45pm: Monday–Friday and Wednesday mornings: 9.30am-10.15am at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place)
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.
Your feedback and help please
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Amy, Counselling, Health & Wellbeing Team.
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 and Money, Careers and Employability, Counselling, Health and Wellbeing, Disability and Dyslexia and International Student Support. The Student Support Centres are located at 50 Park Place, Cathays Campus and Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus.
For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.