Friday, 4 August 2017

Feeling homesick at university

by Ellen Ramsay, BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy, Teesside University

University has been the best three years of my life so far but, at first, it didn’t feel like that way.

I was really excited about my new adventure – I was moving 200 miles north to begin my university course in occupational therapy. But the homesickness set in during Freshers’ Week. I found my new life very difficult – I had arrived with freshers’ flu (yes, it does exist!) and I cried all the time. I can remember saying to my family that, if I wasn’t feeling better within four weeks, I was coming home. But I stuck with it and it got better and, three years down the line, I graduated.

Feeling homesick is a normal part of starting university, especially when you’ve travelled a long way from home. Suddenly everything around you is different – a new place, people, accents, culture, language, course, combined with the pressure to get out there.

But if, like me, you’re feeling homesick, there are things that can help – buying posters from the Students’ Union, printing photos, putting up fairy lights – whatever makes your new room feel like your space.

Explore your surroundings and try to establish a routine quickly, like the route you walk to lectures or the day you do your washing. This can make the new environment feel more stable and you will hopefully feel more settled. If you're really not happy with the house you’re in, you can contact the university's accommodation services to see if you can move – although it’s always worth giving it a few weeks to settle in first.

One of the best things you can do is have a positive attitude and keep yourself busy. There are so many ways to meet people at university – in your halls, on your course, at one of the sports clubs and societies. You can volunteer or work as a student ambassador. You can meet people in the library, laundrette, gym, supermarket, or the SU toilets on a Friday night! Watching Game of Thrones in your room eating a tub of ice cream may seem appealing but it’s not going to help you make friends.

Something that I wish I had done sooner was to talk to my personal tutor and lecturers about homesickness. They are there to support you as much as teach you. You can also talk to the chaplain, student services, counsellors and staff at the Students’ Union.

So if, like me, you’re feeling homesick and don’t know what to do, remember that it’s normal to have doubts and worries about your new life. Talk to people. Chances are others feel the same – you will soon begin to settle in and have an amazing time at university. Believe me, three years flies by and, when it’s all over, you’ll be reminiscing about feeling homesick.

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