It's that time of year again isn't it? The time when some of us pack off to university, to live in accommodation all on our onesies, often for the first time! That was me last year and I remember struggling quite a lot with homesickness. I'm very shy, very introverted and find meeting new people and establishing myself in a social dynamic very difficult so I spent a lot of time hiding in my new room, missing mummy cuddles and all my friends I'd known for years and my then boyfriend. The whole environment was so different and knowing that I had to stay there for ten weeks before I could really go home was very painful. The bed wasn't squishy like mine, I hated the orange curtains and they didn't allow fairy lights or posters and pictures attached to the walls so I was sat on my bed staring at bare white walls and just feeling the worst.
What I'm saying here is I know how it feels, quite a few people get a bit down in the second or third weeks and I thought I'd compile a quick post with a few tips and ideas for curing homesickness, so if you're really struggling with the blues being away from home hopefully this may help.
The first thing to do, and it's a doozy, get busy! The more things you have to do, the less time you have to be moping around focusing on how you're not at home. It also gets you having fun and seeing your new home as somewhere you enjoy being and that you belong. Join societies you're interested in and throw yourself into it. This is especially important if you consider yourself particularly shy or nervous with new people. I know it's hard, I felt psychically sick as I walked to my first English society meeting last year, but as the weeks went on it really became one of my favourite things and I made a lot of friends! This year I'm bumping it up a notch and joining the drama society which is much more intimidating but I just think of all the fun I'll have if I brave the initial nerves!
Secondly, explore! If your knowledge of your new surroundings is from your room to your lectures round the library and back again you're probably missing out on all it has to offer! Spend a bit of your free time wandering around the campus and the surrounding town/city either on a relaxing stroll by yourself or a little adventure with friends, you never know what you might come across, a cute little lake with ducks to feed, a dusty old book shop full of bargains, a little public garden full of beautiful flowers and a little bush maze (!!) or a market stall, open on Sundays, that sells little parcels with all different flavours of fudge wrapped up in ribbon. Or at least that's a few of the things I discovered on my adventures. Having knowledge of where you live, the little haunts and discoveries, stops your new home feeling big and alien, and instead it becomes cozy and familiar and most importantly yours.
Thirdly, friends, the backbone of your time at uni (your education aside of course. Ahem) Definitely make a real effort to get on with your flatmates or whomever you're living with, you'll probably be spending a lot of time around them and this is much easier if you're at least comfortable around each other. Even if they're not the sort of people you would normally gravitate towards, make an effort to find out about them and have some shared experiences under your belt, going out for a drink as a group, playing a few rounds of articulate or sharing a flat meal. Don't just limit yourself to the people you live with either. There are so many ways to make friends, joining societies is the big one, but also consider arranging study (or often 'study') groups with people in your classes. There's nothing like a confusing lecture to bring people together and often these little get togethers start in the library and finish up in a Starbucks or pub somewhere and they're a great way to meet new friends, who will then often invite you along on other outings where you'll meet more people. Again it's hard if you're shy or find meeting people draining but just be brave and take it steady, even if you go to one social on a semi regular basis and attend study groups a few times a month you're getting to know people and making friends that like to spend time the same way you do. Then get really brave and arrange something yourself, a pizza and movie night, a go at that new karaoke bar that's just opened up, whatever takes your fancy. I guarantee you'll have fun, even if you then need to hide in your room for a few days to catch your breath.
My last piece of advice is possibly the hardest and one that may need a little explaining, and that is to limit your contact with home, at least between the second and maybe sixth week as you settle in. One girl in my flat was constantly locked in her room, on skype to her parents or boyfriend and never really settled. She always complained of being homesick and had a hard time clicking with the rest of our flat. I strongly believe that depending too much on contact from home in the first few weeks can really hinder your settling in. It's an excuse to stay in your safety zone and also keeps your attention focused on home and how much you miss it instead of taking the opportunity to have the time of your life. Of course keep photos of your family and friends around and little reminders of home, but let them be reminders of how much you love them, and how lovely it will be to see them again and tell them about what a lovely time you're having rather than wallowing in the fact that you're far away from them. Remember that they love you and want you to enjoy this part of your life.
I do hope those little pieces of advice help anyone who feels they might need it. I know it's scary being away from home but these are the years in which you become the person you will be for the rest of your life. You probably don't want to be that loud, brash party animal who's always the centre of attention, but it's great to know that we are brave and have faith in ourselves and can step up to the plate when necessary and even have a really nice time doing it.
Do remember though, if you are really struggling with homesickness and you believe it is affecting your studies or your mental health there are people there to help. Talk to your personal tutor or an on site councilling service who will be loaded with advice. Around 70% of students report feeling homesick within the first two months of university so they'll have heard it all before and know just how to help you.
Right, that's quite enough from me, I'm going to go make a warm cup of tea and snuggle up in bed with the cat and the next few episodes of Free! an anime I've been really loving recently. Feel free to share any homesickness advice or experience below, you lot always have such good things to say!