Homesickness: a changing perception

Possibly one of the more daunting aspects of heading off to university is the inevitability of homesickness. It is something that most students will experience at some point in their university careers, often in the first term of first year, and this is for a multitude of reasons. Whether it’s due to: the close ties that one might have with their family; the friends that you temporarily leave behind; or the daunting prospect that is travelling hundreds of miles away to a new city, meeting new people and engaging in a new lifestyle. Whether it is due to these factors or not, it is safe to say that it is not typically just one specific factor. A combination of people, objects and memories can culminate into one’s perception of ‘home’ and the FOMO of this perception is further exacerbated if one is not fully engrossed in their new environment.

On a personal note, when I started in late 2017, I had been away from home no longer than three days in my life and as such being mildly homesick was almost certain. My perception was one of comfort, knowing that I always had my family and friends to fall back upon if ever I needed them. As such, when my freshers’ flu decided to stay for seven weeks instead of the typical one, my abilities to go out and socialise with other people were severely reduced. So now, not only was I nearly 200 miles away from home, but I was also confined to my flat, apart from the occasional lecture and seminar. I was not even remotely engrossed with the university lifestyle. It is in environments like this where one’s homesickness can become debilitating. It is here where one can only ever think about being at home around people you know and people you love and who love you. It becomes all one can think about.

So, what is there that can be done about this? What did I do in this situation that has meant I am now still at university and about to enter my third year? To be honest, in situations like this, it is difficult. It requires strong mental fortitude and a determination to carry on the best that one can. It should be mentioned here that I am not advocating struggling on your own through the anguish. This is impractical if not foolish. This is something I learnt at the time. What is practical, however, is using the wide array of tools that it is possible to use if ever one is struggling. This does not need to be through a particular service, such as Nightline (although they are an exceptional service and are always willing to listen to whatever one has to say to them), but it can be talking to people – those around oneself in this new environment and those who one may have left behind. Personally, I found that getting as involved as I could with the people in my flat and the few people I knew on my course before falling ill not only acted as a distraction, but as peers in this struggle with homesickness. Although it may not feel like it when you first arrive, it is unsurprising that other students in this position feel exactly the same way. Whilst everyone’s experience is different, the simple fact of knowing one is not alone is frequently one of solace.

As time passes and the things holding one back dissipate, one is finally able to engross themselves in their new environment. With this getting involved, as well as the general passing of time, the feelings of homesickness tend to disappear, and one is finally able to enjoy the multitude of new experiences that are available to them. The perception of home as this necessity for one to exist comfortably morphs. Home now becomes this place that you enjoy, possibly even want, but not something you need. Over more time, as I have learnt, your perception may change further, and home may become this place where you are forced to return to outside of term time after having the time of your life in term time. Regardless, being homesick is a terrifying prospect for many students entering university life. Like most obstacles, however, it is much easier to face when you are not trying to tackle it alone.

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