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Battling homesickness at university

Emily Robson discusses the ways to combat homesickness while settling into university

By Emily Robson, Second year, Politics and International Relations

Every September, students from across the world - often followed by gaggles of parents, guardians or siblings - drag suitcases through airports, lift potted plants out of cars and carry saucepans and spatulas through Bristol’s many hills and streets.

Starting life at the University of Bristol marks the beginning of a momentous change. The steady certainty of school, old friends and childhood bedrooms are suddenly replaced with seminars, lectures, new buildings, new places and new people. Family is no longer in the room next door but suddenly many miles away.

It is, therefore, only natural that students often experience homesickness in their first weeks and months of University. In fact, one study suggests that 94% of students reported homesickness during the first 10 weeks of University.

Homesickness can affect people in many different ways, ranging from poor sleep to nausea, headaches and feelings of panic.

In some rare cases, homesickness can lead to depression. Student Counselling and Nightline are there to support you and your mental health in this eventuality. Bristol University’s Wellbeing Network also operates a buddy system which has an online form for those who are looking for someone to talk to.

Many mental health researchers suggest that socialising can be incredibly effective way to combating homesickness at university. Joining clubs and societies can be an easy way to meet like-minded people, make friends and curb the feeling of loneliness - with the added bonus of adding a new skill to your CV.

Bristol University is home to over 350 sports clubs and societies which cater to almost every possible interest and hobby. There are also plenty of volunteering opportunities and sustainability networks that can be accessed through the Bristol Hub - all providing an important panacea to homesickness and isolation.

However, the stresses of meeting many new people at once can actually be a trigger for homesickness in itself. Maja Bury, a second-year modern languages student, told Epigram that her first-year homesickness was triggered by anxiety surrounding the pressure to socialise, coupled with missing old school friends.

‘It was mainly because I had to speak to so many new people rather than because I was away from my family,’ Maja said. She also mentioned that being able to FaceTime parents and relatives at any time did greatly help her to reduce feelings of isolation.

Exploring Bristol and its surrounding areas, exercising, going for a walk or even just getting out of your room are repeatedly recommended to help homesick students improve their outlook on University.

When asked about her tactics to alleviate feelings of homesickness, she said that she liked to put on comfort films in her downtime, taking her mind off the new stresses attached to student life: ‘Honestly, I just watched films and shows I’d seen a million times before because they felt like home.’

International students similarly suffer from homesickness, although this can be more acute due to factors like culture shock and the significant distance from home. Speaking to Epigram, one second-year student from Brazil - who wished to remain anonymous - outlined some of the difficulties she faced during first year: ‘I used to see a lot of home students going to their parents’ house on the weekends and holidays but I couldn't because of the distance.’

However, keeping in frequent contact with home as well as making an effort to avoid spending too much time in the flat helped her to alleviate her sense of homesickness.

'St Nicholas Markets' / Unsplash / Martyna Bober 

‘I used to video call my friends and family very frequently. Even when I went to the library, I had study sessions [with my old friends] and I'd call my mom when I was cooking…I also made an effort to not spend too much time in my flat which allowed me to enjoy the university experience with other people and visit new places.’

Exploring Bristol and its surrounding areas, exercising, going for a walk or even just getting out of your room are repeatedly recommended to help homesick students improve their outlook on University.

Whilst university can certainly be an overwhelming time, where one feels a lack of connection with others and pines for home and familiarity, it offers boundless opportunities to explore, to volunteer, to try something different and to meet people from all over the world.

Making connections: A guide to meeting people in the first weeks of university
Study smarter, not harder: Effective study strategies to adopt into your academic routine

While it may take time to forge a new home at university, acknowledging feelings of homesickness and deciding to actively search for solutions that work for you will place you on the right path to getting the most out of student life.

Featured image: Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez

Have you experienced homesickness at university?