Homesickness

Homesickness

Leaving home, very often for the first time, can be daunting.  There are lots of mixed emotions.  Coming away is something you may have looked forward to for a long time and it may have come as a surprise to you that you are feeling homesick.
Missing family and friends back at home is a natural reaction, felt by many people.
Moving away to university is a time of transition.  Suddenly, instead of being an important member of a small unit of people, with familiar routines and activities, it can feel that you have become an anonymous person in perhaps the biggest community you've ever lived in.  You may also feel that the relationship between you and your family changes dramatically.
Paradoxically homesickness can often ‘hit’ after Christmas, in the second semester, when you come back after the break and the newness of university life has worn off.

Causes
You’ve taken a big step in leaving home and coming away to study. The impact of this decision may hit in the form of homesickness. You have left all that is familiar and come away to work in a new and much larger environment.

Beliefs about homesickness:
These are some of the thoughts which people often have when they are homesick:

  • I’m the only one suffering like this
  • Feeling like this means that I must be     weak/childish/ inadequate.
  • I’ve lost part of my identity
  • I’ve made the wrong decision to come away
  • I’m going to get it all wrong
  • Nobody is going to like me here
  • I’m not going to fit in at all

It’s important to recognise that these thoughts may be affecting the way you are feeling.  Can you change these negative thoughts into more positive and realistic ones? e.g.

  • other people  will be feeling like this
  • feeling like this is quite natural in view of the change in my life

Symptoms of homesickness:
These are normal symptoms of homesickness:

  • Tearfulness
  • Feeling sad
  • Feeling anxious or panicky
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling lonely
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling more irritable than normal/ less tolerant of others
  • Being angry with parents or family members
  • Being jealous of siblings at home
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Not being able to sleep
  • Sleeping too much and hiding away in bed
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Not eating enough
  • Overeating 
  • Feeling generally unwell or sick
  • Feeling isolated and lonely
  • Not being able to concentrate or focus
  • Using drugs and alcohol to block things out

Things that hinder
The list below may highlight things that are making you feel worse:

  • Not admitting that you feel homesick to yourself or anyone else.
  • Being unfamiliar with your surroundings
  • Bottling up your feelings instead of talking it through with friends, family or a counsellor.
  • Isolating yourself from others on campus
  • Not having any contact with home.
  • Having too much contact with home
  • Going home too often so you never feel settled in one place.
  • Not going home often enough so you feel you are losing all contact with those you love back home

Things that help
By beginning to take control of small things you can begin to help yourself to feel better.
Start with small manageable goals. Think of little things that you could be doing to alleviate some of the symptoms of homesickness. Only you really know what makes you feel better but here is a list of things that others have found worthwhile:

  • Bring small things from home that make you feel comfortable in your surroundings
  • Familiarise yourself with campus, so that it begins to feel like home
  • Try joining in some of the clubs and activities. Although you may not feel like it, it may add to a sense of belonging.
  • A lot of people will be in the same boat as you, so perhaps you could make the first offer of friendship in your halls
  • Try and keep long term goals in mind; this will help you remember the point of it all
  • The Student Union is a good place to keep yourself informed about what's happening in the university.

Homesickness is a normal and real feeling. If you would like support through this time then contact the Student Counselling Service.  The Service’s web pages give more information on homesickness and tell you how to make an appointment to see a counsellor.