Homesickness is the distress caused by being away from home i.e. missing home so much it starts to impact your mental wellbeing. People who are homesick often have preoccupying thoughts of home. They will typically report a combination of low mood, anxiety, being withdrawn and difficulty focusing on tasks. In the case of students, this can be difficulty focusing on university work.
The problem is that many students tend to be hard on themselves because they think that they should be able to cope. Homesickness is not a sign of weakness. You might be surprised at how many other students feel like you do. Moving away for university is a big transition, whether you've come from the other side of the world or half an hour down the road.
Here’s some ways you can avoid feeling homesick, or help deal with it if you’re already experiencing it:
- Understand what homesickness is and don’t judge yourself for feeling it - Feeling homesick isn't a weakness, nor is it something you should beat yourself up about. Missing home is something that affects most students – you'll only make the situation worse if you feel guilty about it.
- Don’t spend too much time in your room alone - It might be tempting to treat your room as a safe haven, but staying in too much can make you feel worse. Isolating yourself will make your feelings more intense, as you'll spend even more time thinking about what you miss. Try to keep yourself busy by taking part in social activities, studying at the library rather than in your room, getting a part time job or even trying out some extracurricular activities.
- Keep your expectations realistic - Try to be realistic in what you expect from university and work out ways to improve your experience if it's not quite what you wanted. Uni is what you make it – if there's something you're not happy with, take control and change this!
- Bring home comforts - Bringing something that reminds you of your room or home can be a big help. Whatever your comfort things are, make sure you bring them to uni with you! Having a sense of comfort and familiarity may help you settle in quicker.
- Stay positive - Of course, this can be a lot easier said than done, but making a conscious effort to carry a positive attitude around with you will help you to combat homesickness in a major way. Plan things into your day that you enjoy doing and can look forward to, whether it's socialising with friends or a nice hot bath and episode of your favourite programme.
- Ask for help - The jump from school to university can be tough to get your head around at first, and there's no shame in asking for help. If you're having any issues with your course, or anything else for that matter – don't suffer in silence. If you're feeling homesick, worrying about your studies or your finances will only make things worse, so take steps to sort any issues out or get support as soon as they arise. As well as approaching your lecturers directly, the university has a wellbeing service available too – use them, that's what they're there for!
- Explore your surroundings - One of the main reasons people feel homesick is often to do with being in unfamiliar surroundings, so it's a great idea to set aside some time to explore the local town or city so you'll feel more at home. Go for walks, explore, volunteer with the local community or just get to grips with what's available on campus. You're only here for a short while, so now's the time to make the most of it!
- 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 keep that link to home. Remember you need to be doing fun stuff in-between as well so you have something to tell people back home all about and memories to look back on.
- Keep healthy - When you're feeling rubbish it can be tempting to lie on the sofa watching RomComs crying into a massive tub of ice-cream or chocolates, but this is likely to make you feel a lot worse. Keeping healthy will help to keep you feeling much more positive about life – it's all about that positive cycle!
Finally, remember there's always help out there. If you're struggling with your mental health there are services available at the university which are free to access.
What to do if nothing works
If you’re well into your first year and still feeling homesick and unsettled, you may be thinking you’ve made a mistake in coming to university. Don’t rush into any decisions about leaving, as things could still improve, but do talk it over with SU Advice, Wellbeing team or your Personal Tutor. It may help to speak to someone back home about this too.
They’ll help you to clarify your feelings and get things in perspective, but they shouldn’t put pressure on you to stay at university if it’s really not the right place for you.
For a few students, it can be right to leave and take another direction.
If you are struggling with homesickness and find that it is starting to affect your mental health, as mentioned above, you can contact the Wellbeing Service. You can contact them by visiting them in person for the Wellbeing drop-in that takes place Monday-Friday between 11:00am-3:00pm. You can also contact them using the following contact information:
- Telephone: 02890972893
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org