By Olivia Wale
2 years ago I moved 120 miles from my family home in the Midlands to come to the University in Hull. I found the first month very overwhelming, and had a constant pit in my stomach making me question was the move right for me? And should I have stayed at home? Homesickness however, is a very normal part of the University experience and whilst it might feel as if it is never going away, there are things you can do to make the change a lot easier, and so I have compiled my top 10 tips to overcoming homesickness and start feeling more settled in your new environment.
- Don’t be afraid if you haven’t met ‘your people’.
When I first moved to University, I quickly realised that my flatmates and I had very little in common and our expectations of university life were miles apart, yet I did not let this stop me from enjoying my freshers week! Some of the closest friends I have at university are people I met on my course, and you may find this too! Usually you have a lot more in common with people on the same course as you and it is easier to bond over why you have chosen to study what you have. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself on the first day, as I’m sure they are just as anxious about who to sit next to as you are! You could also join a society or a sports teams catered more to your interests, information is available on the Student Union website.
- Plan to do things outside of nights out.
Whilst a bit of Dutch courage is great when meeting new people, it is important to socialise in normal day to day environments and not just in a nightclub. Hull has some great options for days/trips out; you could go ice skating, to the cinema, for some nice food in town, or even suggest a shopping trip for some décor essentials. It helps to really get to know people in a more natural situation, instead of the high pressure environment of ‘pre’s’.
- Keep in touch with home
We’re all very lucky that in today’s world we can pick up our phone and speak to our friends and family within seconds. If you’re struggling with homesickness, or just miss a catch up, it is totally okay to facetime or call your loved ones. It’s important to not to call home too often as it can make you feel worse, but staying in touch can definitely help with homesickness and it also gives you a chance to reflect on your week and share all the exciting and fun things you have done.
- Don’t compare your experience!
One of the most overwhelming feelings in the first few weeks was that I thought all my friends were having better times than I was! “Their friends seem nicer.” “They’re having so much more fun than I am!” “They’re not missing home at all”. With Instagram and Snapchat stories, it’s easy to look at your friends and think that you should be enjoying your experience as much as they are, but we all need to remember that what we post online is only the highlights. I’m sure they are feeling exactly the same. My friend and I spoke about this recently and both agreed we were almost jealous of each others freshers experience, but we never realised we were both experiencing different emotions than what we shared on social media.
- Be independent.
When moving to University, it is easy to depend on the friends you have made and do everything together. Although it is great that you have made friends and want to do everything with one another, it is important to remember that there may be a time where these friends are busy either at home or in lectures and you need to go somewhere on your own. I took myself into town every now and again and often went food shopping on my own for some time to collect my own thoughts and process everything. It is also good to go for a walk or do some exercise, maybe listen to some music or a podcast and enjoy some time on your own and become familiar with your new surroundings.
- Invite your friends to visit.
A great way to beat homesickness is by letting your friends from home experience your new surroundings. Invite them to come and visit for a day or two and show off your university! It’s exciting for them to see what your experience is like and also gives you a chance to look at the positives of where you are and what you’re choosing to do. It gives you a chance to catch up with the people you miss, whilst also showing them the fun things your new city has to offer.
- Plan a trip home.
It is important to really give the first weeks of University your all, so you can truly see if it is for you, or if you need to make the decision to do something different. However, having a date set for when you next visit home is great for a point to work towards to. Don’t be put off at the first hurdle and continue to look towards that point in the future, perhaps a month or so into University. It gives you something to look forward to, but ensures you don’t give up too early.
- Push your comfort zone!
Keeping busy is a great way of distracting yourself from how you may be feeling. Going to events that you may not usually go to or joining societies and sports teams are really helpful when making new friends and finding new hobbies. A lot of the societies and sports teams also have taster sessions and will let you come along to see what its like before committing, so it would be beneficial to try a few out and choose one you really enjoy.
- It’s okay to say no.
Fresher’s week and the demand of all the nights out your flat may want to do can be very tiring and take a toll on your social battery. Its important to take time for yourself and know when you and your body need a little rest. Whilst pushing your comfort zone is great, it is important to stay true to who you are and to not put yourself in a situation that is going to be detrimental to your mental health and wellbeing. For example, if you’re not a big drinker, it is okay to go out, enjoy the music and stay sober. Remember your boundaries and beliefs and don’t let people cross the line.
- Seek support.
If you feel that you are really struggling at University and it is affecting your health and wellbeing, then it is important that you seek support. Whether that be through your Doctor or the University, you should speak to a professional who can give you advice and support on any concerns you may have. You can visit the University Union on campus, speak to your AST, someone you trust or your student accommodation staff who are on-site 24 hours a day. The university website also has contact details for mental health support, health and wellbeing advice as well as financial and academic information. You can also report a concern about a friend who may be struggling and the university will endeavour to help them.
Remember that however you may be feeling at present is temporary and there is help and support out there for everyone that are free to access.