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Coping with Homesickness

What is homesickness?

Most people experience homesickness at some time in their life and it can be overwhelming. You will definitely not be the only person feeling homesick when you arrive at University. Suddenly you are having to cope with being away from your familiar group of friends and family and adapting to a large and unfamiliar environment .

What does it feel like?

It is normal to feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety about coming to a new place, making new friends and taking on new courses. Some people overcome their apprehension quite quickly, whilst others may take longer to make the transition and will find themselves preoccupied with thoughts of home.

Homesickness may make you feel depressed, anxious, have obsessive thoughts and experience minor physical ailments. It is different from being depressed since, whilst university may seem awful, when you think of home everything is OK again.

You may have felt fine at first and then noticed you have become homesick later in the year or after the first Christmas break.

Who gets homesick?

Research shows that 35% of new students experience homesickness. You are not immune because you have been away before and felt all right.

Vulnerability to feeling homesick can be affected by:

  • The distance from home
  • A sense of anticlimax at arriving, having worked hard for so long
  • Whether or not it was your decision to come
  • Unhappiness due to expectations not being met
  • Feeling out of control with the work load
  • Differences in lifestyle

Coping with homesickness

In coming to university you need to be able to:

  • Leave familiar things, places and people
  • Adapt to new things, places and people.

Transitions can be hard because in a familiar place people generally feel secure and safe and can take on challenges and changes successfully.

Without this support and familiarity it is much harder to adapt to the new, and existing coping mechanisms may be challenged. This can lead to a drop in confidence and self esteem.

What can help?

  • Acknowledge how you feel and believe that it will pass, because it almost always does.
  • Talk to someone - if you haven't made any friends yet, seek out a tutor, chaplain, supervisor or counsellor. They will all understand and want to help.
  • Keep in touch with people at home and fix a time to go back but also give yourself enough time to get involved at university.
  • Remember other people will be feeling like you, so talk to them!
  • Be realistic about what you expect from university life. Don't either just work or just party all the time! Find a balance and take time to relax in the way best suited to you.
  • Give yourself time to adjust, it won't happen overnight.

Practical things to do:

  • Join clubs and societies to meet people and spend time in the union
  • Establish a routine as soon as possible
  • Talk to the careers service if you have doubts about your choice of course.
  • If the feelings persist seek help from a counsellor or your doctor.

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