What to do when you feel homesick

September, 2023

Homesickness is a common feeling for students, but there are strategies and support available to manage it and adjust to your new environment

What is homesickness?

Homesickness is a feeling of stress or anxiety caused by separation from people and places that you know and love. It is a common experience for students who move away from home, regardless of the distance.

It is common for students to feel homesick at the beginning of the academic year. This can be caused by missing family and friends, feeling isolated in an unfamiliar environment, or struggling to adjust to your academic workload. It is also normal to feel homesick in the weeks following the Christmas and Easter breaks after spending time back home.

Fortunately, homesickness is usually a short-term issue, with most students' symptoms fading after a few weeks.

What are the symptoms of homesickness?

Symptoms of homesickness include feeling sad, missing home, and worrying about friends and family.

Some more specific symptoms include:

  • a disturbed sleeping pattern
  • feeling angry, nauseous, or nervous
  • feeling isolated, lonely, or withdrawn
  • feeling overwhelmed, insecure, anxious, or panicky
  • feelings of low self-esteem or self-worth
  • headaches
  • a lack of appetite or concentration.

How do I deal with homesickness?

Homesickness can lead to more serious mental health issues such as depression, so addressing it as soon as possible is important. Remember, it is completely normal to miss familiar surroundings and find it challenging to adapt. Homesickness is not a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of.

If you are feeling homesick, there are things you can do to help:

  • Stay connected with home - Make time to talk to your family and friends regularly, whether by phone, video chat, or email.
  • Get involved in campus activities - Joining a club or organisation is a great way to meet new people and make friends. It can also help you to feel more connected to your new school and community. Zoe Darlow, welfare officer at the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP), says 'We're lucky to have so many societies in our university communities today, so going to their events can be a really good way of distracting your mind from homesickness.'
  • Personalise your space - Put up pictures and things that remind you of home. This can include sounds and smells, as well as anything visual.
  • Explore your new surroundings - Take some time to get to know your new city or town; visit local attractions, try new restaurants, and go to events.
  • Take care of yourself - Make sure to eat healthy, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. Taking care of your physical and mental health will help you feel better overall.

It is normal to feel a sense of longing for home as a student - but don't be discouraged - it takes time to adjust to your new environment and make new friends.

'Try to be patient and remind yourself that this is a huge life-changing thing - probably the first major change in lifestyle you have ever had,' says Zoe.

It is also important to avoid bottling up your feelings, locking yourself away in your room, failing to attend lectures and seminars, or drinking alcohol more than you normally would. These behaviours can make you feel more isolated and homesick.

Lulu Chen is the education officer at Newcastle University and moved to the UK from China to study for a Masters in international journalism. To help deal with her homesickness she socialises with her Chinese friends and speaks in her mother language. Lulu also suggests 'a combination of widening your social circle, exploring new interests and regular FaceTime with family can help with feelings of homesickness.'

Overcoming homesickness can make students more resilient as Stuart Gray, student life officer at Swansea University explains. 'When students reflect on a period of homesickness after dealing with it effectively, they often find that their confidence and self-esteem have improved because of it. They have overcome a difficult challenge, therefore when they face a similar challenge again, they have the knowledge that they can survive it.'

What support is available?

'If it becomes too overwhelming and starts to affect your daily life, speak to a friend or loved one, your tutor, or university mental health services who can provide you with advice and guidance,' says Stuart. They can help you to understand your feelings and develop coping mechanisms

The Nightline Association also offers anonymous, confidential listening and information services to students over the phone, email, instant messaging, text messaging, or drop-ins.

Remember, homesickness is a normal feeling, and it is usually temporary. With time and effort, you will adjust to your new environment and start to feel more at home.

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