Even the most stoic and brave among us are bound to feel homesick at uni from time to time, be it missing your mum’s tuna pasta bake, your dad’s embarrassing jokes, or even just the luxury of not having to cook and clean for yourself. Moving out of home and going to university for the first time is a challenging experience for anyone, no matter if you’re a real home-bird or even if you’re used to being away from your family for long stretches of time. There’s something very final about moving out that won’t necessarily hit you or feel real until you’re a few weeks or months into university, when it’s finally clear that there’s no going back – you’re on your own.
I never expected to feel that homesick before going to uni. It’s not that I’m not close to my family – I am, very much so, but I just thought I’d be having way too much fun for homesickness to ever cross my mind.
I think a lot of where homesickness comes from is often from the reality of university not matching up to the myths we’ve been sold – that you’ll instantly be best friends with everyone in your halls, you’ll go out partying every night, you won’t have anything to worry about because you’ll be too busy having new experiences. Whilst some of this might be true, it isn’t always the case for most people. Like everything in life, university has its ups and downs, and it can be hard to deal with when you don’t have your family right there to vent to. You may not realise it, but when you’re at home you have a whole support network there for you when you need it, and it’s often all too easy to take it for granted until it’s gone. But part of the university experience is learning how to be independent, and with that comes learning how to deal with feeling homesick.
I don’t want to sound too cliché here, but much like grief, the first stage of dealing with homesickness at university is acceptance. You’ve got to be able to accept when things maybe aren’t all going great, and it’s okay to admit to yourself that maybe you’re not having the best time. Just remember that it’s completely natural to feel this way, and you’re by no means on your own – everyone will have a mini-crisis at some point during the year, even those who seem the most confident and self-assured. The second you allow yourself to have a little cry and let your feelings out, the better you’ll feel in the long run. There’s nothing worse than keeping things bottled up and pretending everything’s fine, when all you really want is a hug and a nice long chat with your mum.
The next, and definitely the most important stage of dealing with homesickness at university is to talk to someone. Whether it’s your parents, siblings, friends from home or even your new flatmates, I can bet you there’ll be someone willing to listen, and most importantly, someone who understands how you feel. Although it can feel a little awkward or embarrassing at first being so open and vulnerable, I can assure you that telling someone else how you feel will lift such a weight off your shoulders, especially if the other person knows how you’re feeling and can offer some advice. It’s all well and good being open with yourself, but letting others into your life and showing them how you feel can be key to maintaining those all-important support networks, and could even help you bond with some new friends.
If you’d rather not talk to someone you know, there are always other options – most universities have a Nightline service, which you can call anonymously to let something off your chest and get some support or advice from one of their trained volunteers. Samaritans also operates a similar service, and if you feel like you need some more support, you can always go and see your University counselling service. The most important thing is to at least talk to someone about how you’re feeling – I promise, it’ll make you feel so much better.
It’s not all doom and gloom though – university can be anything from amazing to alright to awful. Homesickness is an inevitable part of it, and the good news is it doesn’t last forever. Once you settle into a routine and make a good group of friends, you’ll be sorted. Just make sure you check in with your family from time to time.