Help for the Hopelessly Homesick

HUGE POST ALERT! This is a long list of 21 tips for beating homesickness. You may want to bookmark or save it if you don’t have time to read it all at once.

Lonely Chair (photo by daycha)

Settling in to a new place isn’t always easy. Even second year students can have difficulties adapting to a house off campus, living with a group of people who may like to do things a bit differently.

At these points, whether you’re a Fresher or an established student in new surroundings, it’s not uncommon to feel a bit homesick. And it makes matters even harder if you know you have loved ones missing you too. So what’s to be done to take away the homesickness blues?

1. Memories – bring posters and ornaments that remind you of home. Put up some photos of your loved ones, friends and family.

2. Resist the urge to call/e-mail/write every five minutes – Dwelling on it just makes things worse, because you’re not immersing yourself in anything else. The less you do and the more you dwell will make matters worse. Enjoy your new surroundings as much as you can.

3. Talk to others – You’ll find you’re definitely not alone. It’s not unusual to feel this way. And even if you believe everyone else around you is taking it a lot better than you, they are probably putting on a brave face and getting on with life as best they can. Guess what the next tip’s going to be…?

4. Get on with life the best you can – Accept that life moves on. It’s not surprising that you feel this way. For the majority of uni students, this is the first real time of living away from home. If it didn’t happen now, it would happen at some point anyway. The road to independence is a good one and it’s what so many teenagers want. Once the reality sets in, however, some people backtrack on the wish for that independence. Go ahead, you’re allowed to enjoy life. Despite what the media push to you, life is less likely to bite you on the bum than you’d imagine.

5. Keep going and set goals – In relation to the above tip, remind yourself not to give up. The best way to do this is to form a plan and note down any goals you want to achieve in the next days, weeks, months, years…

Work out what things you want in the short, medium and long term. If you’re finding it difficult to think of anything you want out of university life, you may wish to speak to your personal tutor about it. Alternatively, if you are feeling low and want a confidential and anonymous chat with someone who will listen, some universities run a NightLine.

6. Look at the flipside – Just think, since you miss home so much, imagine just how great it’s going to be when you go back to visit! Make a plan to go back and note it down. Look forward to returning for a bit of a catch up. In the meantime, occupy yourself with uni friends, study, societies, outings, and so on.

7. Get involved in local events – If you don’t have enough interest in what’s happening on campus, look to the surrounding local area for events, outings, and clubs. Local papers, tourist information centres and newsagent windows are just some of the sources for local happenings.

8. Get a job! – It might seem extreme if you weren’t planning on it, but getting a bit of cash in might also help you feel less homesick. With something else on your mind such as part-time employment, you tend to forget about homesickness (as well as many other things), so it’s an extreme step, but an effective one.

9. Confront your feelings – Sometimes your other emotions can disguise themselves as homesickness. Are you feeling anxious about your study? Are you stressed about your new surroundings? Are you scared that you have too much independence all at once?

If you have any worries such as these, it may not strictly be homesickness. There are many people you can talk to, including your personal tutor, your Senior Student/Student Ambassador and your Student Services. Communicating your concerns and worries in this way can help greatly and you should be given a lot of support too.

10. Invite your friends to visit – If you can’t go back home, bring a piece of home back to you! Invite a friend of two from back home and show them around the campus and local area. Engage with new uni friends at the same time if you can. Try to make this new surrounding a home away from home.

11. Invest in the power of the word ‘HOME’ – For some students, less than a single day passes before they are already calling their new digs ‘Home’. As an experiment, try referring to your room/flat/house as your ‘Home’. That’s essentially what it is, so it’s time to convince yourself. The way we word things and present them to ourselves can make a strong difference to our perceptions.

FP_PLH (photo by danzo08)

12. Write – One thing about writing…the more you do it, the easier it gets. So why not try writing a diary (or a blog like this perhaps) that describes what you’ve been doing? Describe the surroundings of your new environment, explain what you’ve been learning, describe the people, give life to everything around you.

And the more you write about it, the more passionate you can become about it. Good luck!

13. It’s okay to be overwhelmed – When you first arrive somewhere new, there’s usually a lot to learn. But university has so many new things that it can feel like you’ve woken up on the moon and don’t have a clue how you’ve got there! To add to the confusion, there are millions of things happening and not enough time in the day to be enjoying it all. In short, it’s a rather overwhelming experience.

However, THIS IS NORMAL! You’re not being slow and you’re not expected to be a superhuman individual who can pick up everything in seconds. If you feel like it’s a lot to be dealing with, you’re almost certainly right.

14. Develop a new comfort zone – Living with your family and having a good support network has probably been the norm for most of you. If you’ve moved away now, it’s time to rub your hands together and get ready for a new setup. Prepare yourself for this and you will develop a new comfort zone in no time. But dwell on your previous comfort zone and of course you’re going to find the new situation difficult to cope with. As they say, out with the old and in with the new.

15. It can take time, so don’t panic – The transition from home to new home isn’t quick for some people. If you begin to worry that it’s taking you too long to settle in, take heed in the fact that it can take a number of weeks before things begin to feel a bit more ‘normal’. It might take longer than a whole term/semester!

There’s no timer on you, so don’t impose any limits or tell yourself you’re never going to shake off the homesickness. Let things take there course and continue to be positive in your new experiences. I’ve known people to take months before they settled down, yet had the best time of their life since then. As they say, patience is a virtue!

16. Embrace reality – For some students, Fresher’s Week will have felt like one big party. There might have been no time to stop and think about what’s going on. Lashings of alcohol, loads of new friends and a shed-load of events can send the clock spinning so fast that the week is over in what feels like seconds.

And then what? Reality hits, taking you into unchartered territory. You’re slapped into a sobering outlook.

Yes, university is not one big party. There is work to be done too. There is such thing as sleep…you can’t get away without it.

With such a suddent jolt, it’s easy to think back to home life and how easy it felt compared to this. But that’s just the settling down that’s happening to you. Bizarrely, we sometimes mistake the gentle calming after such a great event to be an awful stress. I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t know why, and I’ve not read enough about it. But again, you’re focusing on the shock of the new. You’ve been given some time to think about it, but you would rather keep going with the non-stop fun.

Don’t worry, there will be plenty more fun to be had. The jolt is a shock, but there will be many better shocks to come that will more than make up for this.

17. Incorporate a hobby into your new surroundings – If you don’t have a hobby, try to take one up for a short period of time (you never know, it might even stick!). For example, you could do some photography within the local area and take in the sights. Or maybe you could go on a different walk each day to find out what’s around you. If you can incorporate an enjoyable pasttime to your area, you can grown an affinity with it much easier than when going in blind.

lonely man (photo by dduchon)

18. Invest in a webcam – If you want to keep in visible contact with friends and family, you can buy pretty cheap webcams for your computer these days. If you and your family set them up, you will be able to have video chats over the internet, which may help the distance problem. Just remember not to have conversations all the time, or you will continue to dwell on the homesickness!

19. Eat, drink, be merry, and rest on it – Keep a routine of eating food, drink plenty of fluids (of the non-alcoholic variety), enjoy yourself as much as you can, and don’t forget to sleep regularly.

All these things have an impact on the mind and body. If you ignore these vital things, you’ll end up feeling more cranky and homesick than ever. Treat your body well and your body will treat you kindly back.

20. Don’t build it up in your head – If you keep sitting in your room, thinking about home and recreating all those happy memories in your mind until you’re even more sad, then STOP IT NOW! Whenever you start to drift into these thoughts, the best advice is to get up, get out and find people to interact with. Maybe those in your communal kitchen, or maybe some people outside. Whatever you do and wherever you go, just make sure you leave the memories of home behind. They’re meant to be good memories of happiness, not thoughts to upset you. Put them to the back of your mind until you’re ready to revisit them with happy thoughts instead!

21. Keep exploring – The more you know about your new town or city, the more you will be accustomed to it.

For starters, learn your room and its layout. It is, after all, where you’ll be staying. It will be your new bedroom and life area, so familiarising yourself with this is a positive first step to banishing the homesickness.

Next, learn your new building. Whether it’s a house, flat, halls of residence, it doesn’t matter. Get to know it well. Get a feel for what goes on and how it’s used. You might find a particular kitchen or floor has all the fun and interaction. Try to incorporate yourself there if you can.

Explore the campus. Don’t limit yourself to the main areas and what you’ve already been shown. Give yourself a real workout and see what’s what. Even if you don’t revisit half the places again, at least you will have taken the opportunity to understand the overall outlay of where you’re going to spend a lot of your time over the next few years.

Further afield, check your local area. Invest in a local A-Z map if you haven’t already. It’s invaluable and might even give you the upper hand when planning an outing. Not everything happens just in the main town or city. It wasn’t until my final year when I realised that there was a whole different aspect to my local area…I used to only ever walk toward the city centre in one direction. In my final year, I found out that walking in the opposite direction presented all sorts of other places of interest. It took two whole years for me and my friends to find a whole new world on our doorstep. If you find out about it straight away, you can really get a sense of belonging…If you become a guru of your surrounding area and know more about it than your friends do, you’re bound to get a little bit of realisation that this really can be your new home.

Six (photo by woodsy)