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Homesickness at University: How to cope with the home-shaped hole in your heart

Mom’s delicious home-cooked meals. Dad’s long warm hugs. Your sibling’s awful jokes. Leaving it all behind to live alone at university is likely the bravest thing you’ve ever done. But it isn’t always easy, and it doesn’t have to be. Homesickness is a genuine issue, and thousands of international students face it on a day-to-day basis.


Homesickness is one of the biggest and toughest trials you will face over the years away from home, and it is extremely crucial not to ignore these gloomy feelings. Missing the solace of your family and the place you know like the back of your hand isn’t easy at all, but there are some simple things you can do that are sure to counter these negative emotions and help you thrive in your new environment.


It’s okay to not fall in love with the university as soon as you step foot on campus. It is a big adjustment, and you are allowed to take as much time as you need to get used to it. According to the National Union of Students (NUS), around 70% of first-year students admitted to being homesick.


The first (and most formidable) step on this road is to admit that you are homesick. Being in denial won’t help, as it’ll inevitably worsen your mood. Instead of letting yourself wallow, keep yourself occupied by your hectic workload and your lovely friends, but remember that a large part of the university experience is learning how to be happy even when you’re alone.


Realising the difference between being lonely and being alone is a vital part of university, and is sure to better your quality of life, even in the long run. Moreover, it’s nice to keep busy in a variety of ways. Try a new sport or hobby, explore different cultures and foods, and experiment with various clubs and societies. Taking yourself on ‘dates’ may prove to be more fun than you could have ever expected.


Another great option is to personalize your space with photos of your loved ones back home, meaningful mementos like the going-away present your friends or family gave you, and decor like a rug you grew up with or the poster you once hung on your bedroom wall.


Now this one might be a little obvious, but remember that your family is always there for you, and chances are they miss you just as much as you miss them. Make it a habit to phone home often, and try to make it a video call so you can see those sweet faces you are yearning for!


Additionally, if you are anything like me, you may also simply be missing the reassurance of the city you call home. The security of knowing exactly where everything is, recognizing the cashier at the grocery store, and just the general comfort that comes with spending your formative years in a certain place dissolves in the blink of an eye when you move to a foreign land.


While this isn’t as easily compatible, taking walks around your new home and eating meals from your culture is likely to help overcome these sentiments. In a few months of walking and exploring, you’re likely to find yourself feeling more comfortable in your area than ever before.


Another great way to feel more at home is to join a society… most universities offer a range of cultural ones where you can immerse yourself in the traditions of your home and bond with people from your community. These societies tend to have an abundance of events, including cultural showcases, and participating in these will make you feel connected with home again.


It’s important to remember that some people cope with their feelings better than others, so don’t compare yourself to the students around you. They may just be better at hiding their emotions or are less connected to their families than you.


If it’s getting too serious and you can’t handle the melancholy, it might be worth seeking professional help. The majority of universities have counseling services that you could experiment with, as it may just be nice to have someone you can vent about your feelings to.


One thing that seems to work great is booking tickets for your next trip home. Having an exact date to look forward to can change your mindset on how long your term might seem, and it may prove to be an incentive that allows you to have more fun and get more accomplished.


Take solace in the fact that you are not alone, and remember the light at the end of the tunnel… the holidays at the end of every term that allow you to reunite with home, both the people and the place.

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