Before I started university, homesickness was one of my biggest worries about life away from home. Lots of people take to uni life like a duck to water, and homesickness isn’t a big thing they have to contend with. But for some people, like me and some of my friends, homesickness was one of the hardest obstacles to face when moving to university.
When thinking about homesickness, I think it basically boils down to the 3 Fs: family, friends, and familiarity. While getting over missing these things may seem impossible, there are loads of things you can do to help others who you think might be struggling.
Going from seeing your family every day to living miles apart can be a major shock to the system when starting uni. A lot of people’s gut reaction to that might be to call them multiple times a day, but this isn’t very effective. Give your friends time to talk with their family, but also try to initiate conversations with them so they can see that they have people at uni they can talk to about their concerns rather than just calling home about them. Just having a chat with someone who’s feeling homesick can really make them feel more at home at university.
You might also notice that some of your friends are going home to visit family every weekend. While trips home are lovely (and a great opportunity to get laundry done for you), going home too often can actually make it harder to get over homesickness, and can distance you from the people you live with in halls. If you notice people constantly going home, make some plans at the weekends and invite them along – show them that you can create a new family at university!
When I started university, I really missed my friends from home. I was terrified to make new ones because I was scared to try and make a whole new set of good first impressions. If you notice that some people you meet stay quiet and seem reluctant to introduce themselves to you, it’s possible that they’re just shy and need a push to try and kick-start a friendship – that’s where you come in! Simply saying hi and asking someone’s name might be enough to give them the confidence to open up, and make them feel a lot more confident in their ability to meet new people.
Deepening friendships you’ve already made is also really important for people feeling homesick. Knock on your flatmates’ doors and have a chat, or ask course-mates out for a coffee or a pint – giving time to building connections with people is the way to make friendships more permanent, and gives homesick people a chance to have necessary DMCs without having to call their family or friends from home.
Moving away from home is like leaving a safe space to move into an unfamiliar one, and this adjustment can add to the issue of homesickness more than you might think. While it’s impossible to make university exactly like being at home, things like organising a trip to IKEA or TKMaxx and picking up some new decorations together can make halls feel more homely.
Taking some pictures together and printing them off to put on the walls alongside photos of family and friends from home (FreePrints is a great shout for this, but there are loads of options) is also a lovely way to remind homesick people that they have friends at university who they can talk to and depend on, as well as adding to the cosy vibe of their uni decor.
It can also be a shock to move to uni and suddenly have to cook, clean, and shop for yourself without parents on hand to help, but trying to tackle these things with friends can ease the burden. Doing laundry together, going on group trips to the supermarket, and cooking meals and eating together can remind people that they don’t have to face the challenge of leaving home alone; sharing kitchen disasters is one of the best forms of bonding!
It might be the case that you’re reading this now and feeling homesick yourself, and that’s okay. Connecting with other people who are homesick will help you too, and make both of you feel less alone. Together, facing homesickness can be so much less daunting.