For most of you, university will probably be your first experience of living away from home. While some people adapt to this new style of living with very few problems at all, others take a little longer to adjust. This is completely normal! And nothing to be ashamed of. Moving away from friends, family and home comforts is a big deal, and everyone copes with this transition in different ways. Homesickness hit me pretty hard during the first few weeks- months, even- of my time at university. But it did get better.
Walking into my new flat on the first day was incredibly daunting. That mixture of nerves and excitement is overwhelming, but a completely expected reaction. I had already found all of my flatmates though Facebook groups, which meant we could get to know each other a little before moving in. This is definitely something I would recommend doing. Having the opportunity to get in contact with those you will be living with for the next year will put your mind at ease, and help with the settling in process.
After dropping me off and helping me sort some bits out, my parents left me to it. It was a bit of an emotional goodbye, but that first day is so hectic that you get caught up in the buzz of it all. We got to know each other, looked around the SU, went clubbing in the evening. It was only over the next few days, when I had a moment to myself to stop and think, that the reality of the situation set in. The homesickness hit me like a tonne of bricks. I became really emotional and withdrawn, not really wanting to go out and socialise with anyone. Of course I knew I should… but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s funny how, even when you’re surrounded by so many people, you can feel really lonely and isolated.
I felt like this for a good few weeks, but time really was a healer. I think the first thing you have to do is allow yourself time to adjust. I found student living a complete culture shock. But now, it’s second nature. I gave myself a chance to settle in, to meet people, and to get used to this new lifestyle; it’s unrealistic to expect that transition to happen overnight. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone also really helped this process. Getting past the feeling of not really wanting to go out and do things allowed me to bond with people, and to realise that they were experiencing very similar homesickness.
I regularly called my parents over these first few weeks as well. You might be worried about seeming really uncool for doing this. But trust me… everyone was doing the same. Nothing makes you feel more at ease than hearing your Mum’s voice, or getting to know about how your Dad’s day went. It’s such a small, but incredibly comforting, thing. Uni life can become quite bubble-like, so it’s nice to get a bit of a reality check from an outside perspective. Your parents will also really appreciate knowing how you’re getting on, regardless of how regular you feel those updates need to be. Keep in contact with your friends from home too! Call them, talk on group chats, have a Skype chat. Not only will it help you feel close to home, but it’s also really important to maintain those friendships. If they’ve also gone to uni, they may well be able to offer some advice, or just be there for you to talk to.
Never underestimate the power of home comforts! Your uni room is a complete blank canvas that will be in desperate need of some TLC. Aside from not being able to do anything with the walls (blu-tac marks are a killer), you have complete free reign. Take the time to pick a colour scheme, buy some trinkets, print of pictures of your friends and family, bring your favourite childhood stuffed toy… whatever you can do to make the room feel like it’s yours. This will really help you settle in, and ease that transition into a room that will essentially be your home for the next year.
These are all little things you can do in trying to manage your homesickness. But sometimes, it still all feels too much. Never be afraid to ask for help if you are feeling this way; there will always be someone willing to listen. See what help and advice services are available to you at your university. Services such as: online help forums; Nightline services, such as the one run by Cardiff Uni’s student volunteers, that offer confidential emotional support and advice; and counsellors are all there to support you.
There is no ‘one size fits all’, quick fix to homesickness. Everyone will react and deal with it in completely different ways. The trick is to find what works best for you, and to know that it is ok to ask for help.
Ellie has just finished her second year at Cardiff University, studying English Language. She also writes a blog ‘Forget the World’ about lifestyle and university experiences.
Note: 'Student Blog' pieces highlight the student perspective on issues relating to ProtectED. Consequently, this article reflects the views of the author and not ProtectED.